We woke to a pretty steady rain this morning. But as it turned out the day finished in bright sunshine streaming down from a clear blue sky.
At breakfast in the Armory I learned everyone on the team was going back to Barbara's house on McClandlees Drive. They had to install a kitchen counter, set the kitchen sink, lay the living room carpet, install a vanity and lights in the bathroom and finish various other tasks to complete the house for Barb. And you know what? They did it all. I was impressed. Really, everyone on this team contributes and they get it done.
After a brief morning devotional at the same table they ate breakfast, Frank, Mark, Kyle, Casey, Ben, Linda, Greg, Abby, Frieder and Joel gathered everything together and headed for the job site. I decided to stay back at the kitchen. I am not sure what fascinates me about the logistics and the effort necessary to prepare the meals for all these workers everyday, but I really wanted to learn more about how the food service people brought it all together. With that objective in mind I made my way to the kitchen and there introduced myself to Tom Kimball, the head of Food Service for the NC Baptist Men Disaster Relief in Gulfport. I spent nearly a half an hour talking with Tom and learned he has fed as many as 6000 people at a time. They refer to that as mass feeding, what he is doing in Gulfport is "food service".
Tom is a volunteer, as are all the members of the NC Baptist Men Disaster Relief (NCBMDR)program, and he/they receive no pay. Tom said he was called by God to do this. I learned the NCBMDR program was not initiated with Katrina, but has been around for years responding to disasters across the country and some internationally. They were in Buffalo during our October Surprise snow storm. They have been involved in Katrina relief and then recovery since the day after Katrina hit.
About feeding the folks here in Gulfport; probably the biggest challenge for Tom is that he gets a completely new staff every Saturday afternoon. That staff typically consists of 16-18 volunteers who spend a week here in Gulfport working from 4:00AM until 9:00PM every day preparing meals for the volunteer recovery teams (like Pathway's). Most of the time those food service teams know very little about "food service" when they get to Gulfport. He trains them and by Sunday evening they are pretty much ready to go for the next week.
After my talk with Tom I had an opportunity to meet a few of the food service team, and for this week's team nearly all of them came from North Carolina. I took some pictures and have them posted at http://www.pbase.com/dhnieman/gulfport . Go take a look.
After my time in the kitchen I headed to the job site to see how the Pathways team was coming along. It was still raining a tad. Kyle and Greg were getting ready to lay the carpet in the living room, Linda, Abby, Frieder and Joel were painting, Frank and Mark were caulking and Casey and Ben were installing the kitchen sink. They actually installed it several times, once with the faucets backwards, but when it was finally completed, I must say it really looked good. In fact the whole house was looking good.
The first day, Monday, I believe, that we met Barbara, I remember her son George making the comment that when these folks are done "we'll have a house that looks like rich folks live here." I'm not sure about that, but the house looks good and it will be a real pleasure, I am sure, for Barb and her family to move out of the FEMA trailer and into the renovated house. Can you imagine yourself in that situation; Katrine hit in August of 2005 and you are just getting back into your house now, in February 2007.
The water supply lines to the kitchen sink Casey and Ben were installing were discovered to be too short so I was told to put down my camera and make a plumbing run. I did so, successfully, and after returning from that run I left the site and returned to my room to work on some pictures and the blog.
After a couple hours Ben called and informed me they needed my van to carry tools and materials back to the Armory. When I got to Barb's house, it was all cleaned up. It looked great, the carpeting was down, the bathroom finished and even the kitchen sink was in. We loaded the van and Frank swept the carpets then invited Barb out from her trailer into her new home. It was a touching time and I am sure it was rewarding for each of the members of the team. They had a direct impact on the making this family's lives better.
Well done Pathways Team!
We all returned to the Armory, unloaded the van, the team ate dinner together. The mood was quiet, but very comfortable, almost introspective. I believe each member of the team realized they had accomplished something good, that they are accomplishing good things down here in Gulfport.
And, tomorrow they get to do it some more!
I'm proud of them and the people of the Pathways congregation back in East Aurora who sent this team down here should know they are being represented very well in Gulfport.