Finishing Work Just Before COVID-19

Finishing Work Just Before COVID-19
Dave, a volunteer from Orland Park CRC, teaches GVSU students how to install siding.

Not long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced lockdowns across North America, World Renew Disaster Response Services volunteers gathered with community and long-term recovery partners to celebrate with “Miss Mavis” as she received the keys to her new home in Meridian, Miss.  

Meridian had been hit almost two years before by a tornado that had destroyed or damaged many homes, including the severely damaged home Miss Mavis continued to live in for 23 months while she waited for help. 

Don Waterlander and professional contractors from Orland Park (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church coordinated to ensure that Miss Mavis received the assistance she needed. Orland Park CRC has collaborated with World Renew DRS for over a dozen years, specializing in “whole-house build” projects in several disaster-affected locations. 

Four different teams from the Chicago-area church traveled to Meridian over five weeks in February and March to build Miss Mavis’ home from the ground up. 

On March 12, despite weeks of record rainfall, the house was ready on schedule for final inspections. As is tradition, World Renew also planned a celebration for the new owner and her adult son Malcolm, who has a disability.

Coronavirus Hits DRS Too

Immediately following the celebration at Miss Mavis’ home, World Renew DRS staff decided to suspend all normal volunteer operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

By the end of the week, teams were heading home ahead of schedule, and more than 400 volunteers had trips canceled. 

Several volunteers stayed for a brief time to make sure that occupied homes had functional kitchens and bathrooms during the coming quarantine.

The Work in Meridian

Orland Park volunteers applied for and received a $20,000 grant from the Chicago Home Builders Association to help defray material costs for the home in Meridian.

One group of students and adult mentors from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, spent their spring break working alongside Orland Park volunteers.

The professional-grade volunteers from Orland Park guided these young volunteers in their work. Chris Adams, the Mississippi volunteer coordinator, summed up the collaboration: “I’m a big believer in ‘training them up in the way they should go.’ It warmed my heart the way Dave (an Orland Park volunteer) taught these young people.”

During a TV news interview, Miss Mavis thanked God for the volunteers who had helped complete her home and told the reporter and all who were watching, “I’ve got a house that ain’t falling down.” 

DRS Remains Involved

The suspension of “normal” DRS volunteer activities lasted the rest of 2020, though recovery efforts did not cease. DRS supplied numerous grants, dispatched small teams of volunteers for specific jobs, provided volunteer facilitators for one-day volunteers, and networked with ministry partners to develop safety standards that allowed DRS to move forward as safely as possible. 

With the ongoing distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, DRS intends to return to regular volunteering in 2021.

About the Author

Christopher Gibson is a member of Christ Memorial Reformed Church in Holland, Mich. For 25 years he has been involved in youth ministry.

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