This past week I spent five days helping a group of volunteers repair houses in the Birmingham, AL area. The group I went with is from Fellowship Missionary Church in Fort Wayne. The organization they work with in Alabama is Next Step Storm. This organization is faith-based and the family that runs it is originally from the Fort Wayne area and are associated with Fellowship.
Next Step works with people whose houses have been damaged by natural disasters, like tornados or hurricanes, and those whose “storms” come from life situations like poverty. The storm in the name is an acronym – Severe Tragedy Outreach Relief Ministry. Monte and Kim Brenneman run it along with their children. They are wonderful people, full of generosity and kindness and love.
My week was spent at the houses of two different clients. We cleared the yards, repaired some of the walls, pulled down vines and bushes, scraped the houses, and then painted them. Hard work, but oh so good for the soul.
I found out that I could (more or less) keep up with the men who did most of the job. I also spent some time talking to the clients, listening to their stories, and sharing some of my own.
Here’s a painter crew: Stephanie, Me, client Deborah, and Janet.
Volunteers with Next Step Storm come from all over the country, mostly groups from a different church each week. Our small band included all ages from high school to retirement. We stayed in a “camp” that is a large property that includes a building containing a lounge and eating area, rooms full of bunk beds, and bathrooms with showers. There is a small kitchen where volunteers cook our meals and prepare the food for our sack lunches. I really thought I might lose a few pounds over the week, but those ladies can cook! The site also has several buildings for storage and a fleet of trucks and trailers.
There are several traditions that are observed at camp; one is signing your bed.
Along with the work there is time for fun. We went out as a group for dinner, one night was movie night, and one evening we had guests: neighbors and clients past and present. One of the ladies, Miss Effy, was a gospel singer and played the organ for a sing-along.
The lounge has lots of games for entertainment. The highschoolers kept a continuous Monopoly game going all week.
The Brennemans welcome all volunteers, including youth groups. If you belong to a group who might be interested in volunteering for a worthwhile cause, I strongly suggest you check Next Step Storm’s website. They would be happy to include you.