HJ/EDMarch 13, 2006

More from Camp Katrina

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Momentum continues as waves of DC volunteers come and go for Katrina Releif.

This is what Al Nagel had been hoping for when he first envisioned it last Descember.

One night after their trip, Nagel and his team of volunteers gathered to talk about their experiences along with their families.

The group discussed going back, but with conflicting schedules, four separate waves were formed.

With the help of Wayne Murphy, Russ Irvin, Gary Plowman, Rollie Severson and Tom and Bob Morris and others the project became the Minnesota Katrina Relief Effort.

Groups were formed and plans were made for local volunteers to help.

“This is a lifelong issue, it’s not going to end with Katrina. There will be tornados and floods, and someone needs to help,” Nagel said.

The group returned to Camp Katrina in Waveland/Bay St. Louis, Miss. where Katrina blasted away 150 miles of the coastline.

Christian Life Church of Orange Beach, Alabama, founded Camp Katrina three days after the storm hit.

It started in a Kmart parking lot with a small group cooking and feeding more than 5,000 people a day.

The mission group grew from there and now volunteers have come from all over the United States to roof, gut and repair homes.

There have been groups from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Alabama, Wisconsin and Canada and every denomination of churches.

Not only do they work, they listen and talk to the people about their stories and lives.

Gary Plowman of Cokato and his spent their first week roofing four homes and gutting out another. Plowman’s team included, Bob Viara, Darwin, Jim Kirkpatrick, Cokato, Jon Barberg, Cokato, and Sarah Wreede, Litchfield.

One of the families helped by Plowman’s team had a daughter who lived six blocks away and now has a FEMA trailer on the same lot as theirs.

The couple had no flood insurance and almost no money from FEMA. They could afford the shingles, but they could not afford the contractor, according to Plowman.

“It feels good that you can do a job they can’t do,” he said.

Nagel and his team helped move bricks from what used to be one woman’s home. Two months after the storm hit, her daughter was murdered.

Among the debris, she was determined to find a memento of her daughter that they had yet to find under the rubble. What Nagel and his team did find were several significant items.

First, was a ceramic planter unbroken, with the Lord’s Prayer painted on it.

Second was a photo album with every picture destroyed except for a picture of Jesus. The third item was a DVD, which the pastor had spoken of the night before.

It was the movie, “Pay It Forward,” in which a young boy comes up with a plan to help others and in turn they would help someone else.

One camp member stated that the stories are endless. Nagel agrees, “That if you don’t see God is here, you are blind.”

Nagel doesn’t plan to stop here. There are three other waves yet to come and he was planning on heading back to Dassel where he is an insurance agent, but plans changed when he decided to stay another week.

DC compassion

Last week, the first wave of DC volunteers returned from Waveland as the second departed.

On the bus ride home, volunteers shared their reactions.

“The first thing that hit me was all the damage that I saw,” said Cokato resident Gary Plowman.

“Six months after Katrina hit the coast, it looked like it could’ve happened just last week. Many homes have yet to be touched and the debris is everywhere. Total cleanup will take many years and even then it will never be the same,” Plowman explained.

Jim Kirkpatrick of Cokato went down in December but he still hadn’t comprehended the extent of the disaster. “The second time I realized we could go on for years, and I certainly want to keep going,” he said.

Sarah Wreede, Litchfield, had to decide whether to work to make money on her spring break from Concordia or to volunteer and help the relief effort. “I realized making money was the selfish thing to do. These people have nothing and I felt it was a call to serve others in need.”

Lois Dahl of Dassel heard Al Nagel speak at her church. “My heart cried for those people and I knew I could do something for them, even in a small way,” she said.

Plowman explained how he came down with four friends, but left camp with more than 30 new friends.

The experience will continue with every wave that comes and goes. Nagel said, “this trip will change you,” and it is evident it has.

Everyone has a job. Some volunteers pound nails. Others develop relationships within a devastated community. God uses the talents he has given.

Everyday the camp has new work orders. Teams are set-up for different work sites. Some gut houses while others put on new shingles.

For every person a team helps, a relationship is built. So many agree that the residents that they helped were so thankful they would want to feed them and even pay them for the help they had given.

“Every single one of them gave us tons of hugs and ‘God bless yous’,” Plowman said.

The motto at Camp Katrina is, “What happens in Waveland does not stay in Waveland,” and the volunteers take what they’ve experienced with them.

Camp Katrina feeds local school

Camp Katrina volunteer center feeds more than 100 students a day at St. Clare’s Catholic School along the coast of Waveland.

Lois Dahl, and Sandy Ward, both of Dassel, helped pack more than 100 lunches during their time at the camp.

“It was good to know I was helping to feed kids at a school,” Dahl said. She is a paraprofessional for Dassel Elementary.

St. Clare’s teaches 119 students from pre K3 through sixth grade. The school was completely destroyed along with the church.

School began Oct. 31 after a contractor from Alaska donated large tents for classrooms.

St. Clare’s was given permission to rebuild the church but for financial reasons was unable to rebuild the school, according to Barbara Landry, the school’s secretary.

Next year, the school will consolidate with Bay Catholic Elementary in the nearby town of Bay St. Louis.

With numerous donations from schools and churches, the school is running successfully and the students seem to be happy, Landry said.

“I think they are adapting to the situation well. . .going to school brings a sense of normalcy among the debris, for not only the kids but the parents and community,” she continued.

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