Thursday, November 16, 2017

A WGN Chicago news article highlights Detroit's Tiny Homes by Cass Community Social Services, through whom the NSIC Service Trip coordinated in our 2016 mission trip.

Please enjoy this well done news piece on working with housing issues in our cities!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Our Hearts Remain in Missouri!

Thursday, August 3, 2017.

Our crew was able to sleep in this morning, with our bus leaving for home around 8:45. Most of us were up earlier, and enjoyed the time to relax at breakfast, pack, and catch up with the work we did this week.

Once on the road, we enjoyed a smooth ride until our lunch break at Imperial Buffet in Normal, IL. The owners did a great job welcoming us, and giving us a room where we could continue our conversations. The food was good, and of course, the company was comfortable with one another.

We returned home after enduring the Chicago rush hour traffic and some tremendous rain storms, but arrived safely.
A safe drive, even with some torrential rains along the way.
We unpacked the van by around 4:30, loaded our cars, hugged our friends old and new, and bid farewell until next year. Many of those new to our trip, as well as those who have traveled before, were already looking forward to next year.

We also have our first "Road Show" presentation of this year's trip scheduled! Please come to Messiah Lutheran Church in Wauconda on October 15. More details to come!

Finishing Touches... Mostly.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017.

Another hot day, and visions of the end pull us through!

A new site in High Ridge had us working on manufactured homes for lower income residents. Here, we met up with another group from Michigan, working through National Relief Network (NRN). This crew consisted of mostly younger adults and high school students.

Jan Z preparing the joists
for the flooring.
Our team split up to work on a few homes. One crew cleaned up a concrete slab to prepare it for a new home to be built, picking up glass and preparing the ground after the home which originally stood here was destroyed. Another home had serious water damage, and needed new flooring and drywall. Our team was able to prepare the walls and get the floor insulation layers ready. Most of our team worked here, and made some great progress!

Another home needed some exterior painting, while yet another had years of moss which needed to be power washed off. This last home also had a family living in it which had some local enemies, so there were shot gun pellet holes all through the siding and windows which would eventually be repaired. This family no longer lives here, and another couple came by, interested in moving in when the work is done. They seemed very thankful of all the work we were doing, and we had the promise that each home we touched this day would host an appreciative family in the near future, no matter their condition today. We can all aspire to gratitude such as theirs!

Our Fenton project continued! Our crew finished working in the basement, and completed removal of the soffits. We filled two complete dumpsters with materials from the four units, and the buildings are ready for the next stages of reconstruction. The work crews which follow will have a good foundation on which to rebuild these homes for underprivileged families.
Andrea works on removing the last of the drywall. (Laura A)

Linda makes final preparations on the studs. (Laura A)
Resurrection Lily
We also filled in some more information about our Eureka home! This two story house was flooded to nearly the top of the first floor, which was cleaned and prepped by a previous work crew. This left us working on the electrical by standing on boards laid over the open floor joists, and two stories of siding.

In addition to the changes our group is facilitating by our labors, our crew here even found one small, lonely lily on the grounds around the house, not trampled or damaged. It wasn't blooming, and looked much like any other tall weed in the area - until our last day. The flower bloomed, almost as if to give our work crew, and the family who lives here, hope for the future!

The Florissant team finished the basement, and moved all of Carol's things back downstairs so the storage unit in her driveway could be returned. The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) is now ready to begin work installing a sump system, making Carol's house safe for many years to come.
The team worked together to moved all the items from the
temporary storage unit in Carol's driveway back to the basement. (Ken J)

Some expert window cleaners
paused for a photo.
When our Fenton crew finished, they came over to High Ridge, and we realized that our team was now too big to fit in the work spaces when combined with the NRN team. Our project leaders, Denise and Chris, found a church which needed some cleaning help, and our team jumped at the chance to work in an air conditioned environment! Our combined crew headed to St Mark's church, where the custodian, Dan, put us to work with cleaning their windows and other spaces which needed attention.
As a celebration of a job well done, our last night was spent trying to solve a murder mystery at the Bissell Mansion! It was a great time of comedy and sleuthing, and our team of characters left our hosts in stitches. Pastor Eric was deemed the best "Les" they ever had! A fun way to wrap things up.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Finding Our Rhythm.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017.

A great second day of work, and many wiser workers getting into their groove.

Fenton, Rusty Drive
Our Fenton demolition and reconstruction preparation continued working on our duplexes.

We had to remove the drywall and plastic sheeting around the top of the kitchen, as well as remove drywall screws remaining after demolition. Since there is no electricity at this site, some of our crew had to remove as many screws as possible by hand. This was done for a while, but the next crew, hopefully after electricity is restored, will be able to make quick work of this with the right tools.
Removing drywall from near the ceiling. (Laura A)
Several from our crew went into the basement to clean up the remaining furniture and shelving left from before the flood, and remove the drywall which has been continually wet since April 30 - over three months! These walls were covered with toxic black mold, and needed to be removed by shovel since the material simply crumbled when we tried to remove it.

Toxic Black Mold being treated before removal. (Kathy W)

Florissant, El Dorado Drive
Demolition and reconstruction preparation. Our crack team of construction minded work crew continued to clean the basement of damaged drywall and paneling, and began to hang drywall, which is what they all seemed to live for! Carol, the owner, also shared some of her heart wrenching and continually frustrating story with our group at dinner!
Panel Cutting Expert, Ethel! (Ken J)

Carol, and her friend Kelly, sharing some stories
of their experiences and trials. (Eric E) 

Our West Alton crew, on Edmonton Drive, made some great headway on their closet installation! The walls and doors are short, but also narrow. When you look at the crew in front of their work, everything looks proportional, but our work crew each look 6" taller!
Gary and Debbie preparing the walls. (Chuck W)

Doors hung, and trim ready to go.
Everyone looks just a little taller! (Scott M)
We have some updates and news from our Eureka team! It seems they have had a challenge, working outside in the heat, and putting up siding. The crew had a slow start, waiting for materials, but jumped in and did a great job making the house weather resistant.
Putting up the scaffolding. (Janet F)

Replacing damaged siding. (Janet F)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Working in the Neighborhoods!

What an amazing, task filled first day!

We had teams working on several homes, in four different towns!

Our team did some rehab work in West Alton, putting in a closet - with odd sized doors. More to come on this one when things are farther along. This is a tight space, so we have three crack carpenters who love working with power tools enjoying their project! They also promise to have some fantastic shots showing their handiwork tomorrow, which given the characters on the team, should be very... informative!

Florissant hosted our only air conditioned worksite, which was our crew putting up the final pieces of wallboard in a home. They will finish installing the drywall, then putty it, ready for painting. This crew worked closely with the home owner, who had much of the initial recovery work already done. Yes, they didn't get much sympathy from the rest of the group who got to enjoy the Missouri heat first hand.

Eureka, well, these folks will fill us in some time soon. ;-)
Fenton was our largest site, with just over half our total crew broken into four work teams. Our worksite consisted of two duplex homes (four units), which saw flooding both in 2015 and again this past Spring in 2017. Previous work teams had started demolition on these homes, and our job was to pick up where they left off, tearing out wallboard on the main floor, and addressing the mold still present in the basement. We had to spray the now accessible studs with a remediation compound to keep mold from spreading further, or staying in the home after it is finished. We also had to take care to save any fixtures not affected by water or cabinets which were above the waterline.
Denise filled us in on the work we would be doing.

Demolition crew making way for the next phase.
Tearing down old drywall to get to the studs.

Keeping the fixtures will save the owner
a lot of money he doesn't have.

Filling our dumpster with our day's work.

One of the units had already had most of the drywall removed, but needed mold remediation. The other unit, however, still had the wet, moldy drywall up in the basement. Our crew needed to wear N95, mold resistant masks, and the basement team put on full Tyvek suits, which made them look like they were ready to do some government work!
Tyvek suits with N95 masks
make a distinct fashion statement!

Treating the studs with mold remediation solution.
We were able to close up the first duplex, ready for the next crew to start the construction phase or the home rebuild. The second duplex will see our shining faces again tomorrow, which we continue to clean out the moldy drywall, and prep the studs with mold remediation solution.

As with any mission projects, we're not sure what we will come across until we are on site. Each of our locations brings unique challenges, and there are more than a few surprises still on the horizon for the remainder of our trip. Stop back again tomorrow, and we can be surprised together.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Welcome to Missouri!

Our team met at Grace Lutheran Church in Mount Prospect, IL for a wonderful lunch. We met old friends from previous trips, as well as new friends who haven't traveled with our team before. Our lead team made introductions, anointed our hands for the work we were about to do, and share our timeline for travel to the St. Louis area. Our final count is 40 missionaries from ten congregations: Glenview United Methodist Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Hope Lutheran Church, Kingswood United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Messiah Lutheran Church, Shir Hadash Synagogue, St. Alphonsus Parish, St. Mary Parish, and Temple Chai. We will also be joined by a few friends from a church near Litchfield for a day or two of our work.

Happy, clean, and not yet sore, our crew is ready to hit the road!

We left promptly, and enjoyed an uneventful ride to Litchfield, Illinois where we ate at a fun little buffet. We were able to spend more time getting to know one another, and were on the road again for the last push to our hotel. The weather was pleasant, and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the Gateway Arch as we crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri!
Our breathtaking sunset as we crossed the mighty Mississippi River.
Our hotel is beautiful, with comfortable and clean rooms (at least from what I heard, so far), and the staff was ready for us with keys and room assignments ready to go. We also met our work group planner from the Salvation Army, Erin. She gave our group some introductory information, then met with each of the work site leads to cover the details they will need for their teams.
Eric addresses the mission team, who filled
both the main lobby and balcony.
Erin fills in team leads Jim and Jeff.

Tomorrow is our first day of work. We meet for breakfast before 7:15, when we load the bus for our work sites. Our tasks are varied, as are our locations. We will be visiting the towns of West Alton, Hazelwood, Fenton and Eureka for multiple homes. Our team is excited to see what comes, and it sounds like the highlights will come from our (possibly over eager) demolition crews!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nearly there, preparing and packing!

We are all in our homes and preparing to work. Our bags are packed (hopefully) and we're finalizing our homes to leave for nearly a week of work and inspiration. Our advance team (two guys who know what they're doing!) are already on site, and spent Friday looking at the projects we have ahead of us. We will be staying in Kirkwood, and working in several other towns west of St. Louis on homes in various states of recovery. Some of the tasks we are preparing for are:
  • Demolition
  • Drywalling
  • Painting
  • Carpentry
  • Installing insulation
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Ceramic tile
Kaci D, 16, helped residents fill sandbags on
Starling Airport Road in Arnold on May 3.
(St Louis Public Radio)
The areas around Kirkwood, Alton, Fenton and Eureka were hard hit, both in 2015 and again just this past Spring! Some residents are considering leaving their homes while others have committed to rebuilding their communities. It is these re-builders who we will be working with. Most of the work we will be doing is in homes, and we will hear first hand the experiences of having one's homes and possessions swept away by flood waters. Many of us live in affected suburbs, where our own communities have been flooded by recent rain, and this should bring another layer of emotion to our time in Missouri!

Flood water from the Meramec River covers some
athletic fields at Eureka High School.
(David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

At this time, 42 of us are part of this team, and we've learned that the final count can only be finalized when we're on our way. We have found that our team members take this work seriously, and don't back out unless they truly have to. Tomorrow is departure day, so come back to see who is finally able to join us for this, our fourth Interfaith Service Trip!