Local church provides ongoing hurricane relief
Members of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church have made six trips to New Orleans, and they plan more.
It started by adopting New Orleans police officer Walter Givens and his two children.
“We collected Christmas gifts, small appliances, around 100 quilts and a variety of other items; jam packed them into two vehicles, and five of us headed for New Orleans,” Pastor Jim Hendrickson said.
Word spread after their January 2006 trip, and an employee at Mercy Hospital said she would donate a Wurlitzer organ if Hendrickson could find a home for it. When he did, the organ was loaded into his van and driven to a New Orleans mission congregation so they would have music for Thanksgiving 2006.
The local parish’s third trip to New Orleans in January 2007 took 11 people for a week to help rebuild homes. That was followed by a fourth trip of mostly youth in June 2007, a fifth trip of teachers from the parish school in October and a sixth trip of mostly senior citizens in November.
“The four St. Paul’s-sponsored trips in 2007 to Camp Restore (a Christ-centered ministry of the Southern District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) totaled 63 people,” said Bob Knudson, who has participated in three of the trips.
Another trip is planned for the week of Jan. 5.
“There are four or five of us going,” Knudson said.
“We feel blessed the congregation is supporting us with traveling expenses that are mostly covered with cash donations, which makes it easier for us to go,” Hendrickson said.
Volunteers sleep in a church school, which has been converted into a dorm.
“We sleep in a classroom, and the gym has been made into a dining hall,” Hendrickson said.
“It’s fun to go,” Knudson said.
Plans aren’t definite, but Hendrickson and Knudson are confident the church will sponsor more trips in summer and fall 2008.
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod nationwide has received 800 requests to rebuild homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hendrickson said.
“As of now, 200 have been rebuilt,” he said.
At the current pace, Hendrickson said, it’s estimated to take eight more years to rebuild all the homes that were destroyed.
The local parish has helped rebuild three churches and five homes so far.
“We do it out of love and concern,” Hendrickson said.
“It is very rewarding. These people thank you and hug you every day you’re there,” Knudson said.
“We felt as a congregation we had to do something. It’s devastating to see all the destruction. Yet each time we go, we see great improvements and that’s encouraging to us.”
HOW TO HELP
Anyone in the community wishing to make a cash donation to St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church should designate funds as “Hurricane Relief” and mail them to the church office at 210 S. Ringold St., Janesville, WI 53545.
Those wishing to volunteer for church-sponsored future trips to New Orleans are invited to call the church office at (608) 754-4471.