Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 4: Humbled

At 9 a.m. on Friday we disembarked for Hoboken, N.J. for our Fun Day. We arrived close to 11:30 a.m. and began our day by touring the Cake Boss site. Unfortunately, he was filming today and was unable to greet us, but we did get to tour inside because one of the St. Albert parishioners’ daughter works on the show. Upon entering I just smelled the delicious aromas. Oh, and the cakes. Wedding cakes, a Sesame Street cake, a cake shaped like a wrestling ring, cakes, cakes and more cakes. Unfortunately I cannot show any pictures because the episode they were filming will not air for a few months, but I can tell you some of them were quite elaborate.

From there, we were given 5 hours to wander around New Jersey and sightsee. A number of people chose to visit Carlo’s Bake Shop, which is the Cake Boss’s shop. Originally I was going to check it out, but when I saw the line stretching down a block and heard the average wait was 1.5-2 hours, I decided I did not really want a cupcake or slice of cake that bad. A small group of us decided to walk down along the shore and try to get closer to the Statue of Liberty. Then we discovered that if we boarded a ferry, we were only 10 minutes away from New York and the 9/11 Memorial. When we realized we could purchase a round trip for $12, all seven of us were sold.

Going rogue: Me, Arlene Skrenes and Susan Leet were among the 7 that went rogue and fled the state of New Jersey and hopped a ferry to check out the 9/11 Memorial.
The ferry departed every 30 minutes, and lucky for us the next ferry was due to leave in 10 minutes. After disembarking in New York, we were only a few blocks from the Freedom Tower. We asked a couple locals for directions and figured out where we needed to go to get tickets. The tickets were complimentary, it was just a matter of waiting in line.

What really struck me was the atmosphere in the 9/11 Preview Center. The walls were covered with the timeline of 9/11 and enlarged photographs from the aftermath. In one photo, a man was holding a sign asking if anyone had seen his loved one, while his face was an expression of loss. In another a man was pinning up a poster of his loved one, also missing.

All of a sudden, it hit me. These were people’s brothers, sisters, parents and children. I was 15 years old when the towers came crumbling down, and neither my parents nor I personally knew anyone working in the vicinity. I remember being in a state of disbelief as I watched the second airplane hit the World Trade Center and when the buildings crumbled to the ground within seconds, but like I said, I was 15. It didn’t seem “real” to me at the time.

I’ve seen the long-term aftermath, the war, the fallen soldiers, the imposed restrictions, especially on airlines, but there is something totally different about seeing the Memorial, seeing the faces of 9/11. It really did strike it home for me, that yes, it was real, the people were real. I don’t think I truly appreciated what 9/11 meant to our country until I visited the site.

One of the two Reflective Pools at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)
As we made our way over to the Reflective Pools by the 9/11 Memorial, the feelings just got stronger, what it means to be safe, what it means to be free. I popped onto Facebook quick and messaged a couple of the guys I know who are currently serving, and thanked them for the sacrifices they make. Many times, we take our freedoms for granted, not realizing that if it weren’t for the men and women at arms, we could very well end up in a country where speaking out against the government or voicing your opinion could result in spending the rest of your life in jail, or even death. We have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press. We can speak our own minds and are free to follow our bless. Not everyone enjoys those liberties, which we do take for granted.

I feel so blessed to have been in the right place at the right time with the right people that I was able to have the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial, I have wanted to do that ever since it was completed, but it was not something I would get to normally do. I honestly thought it would probably be another 10 years before I had the opportunity. The Memorial Museum is still being built, so I do hope to one day be able to return to New York to visit the Memorial when it is fully completed.

The tone of the afternoon for me was one of excitement to be going to the Memorial, amazement at the beauty of the architecture (not that I’m an expert or anything) and somber because of what the Memorial stands for. However, that does not mean I was totally serious. With this amazing group of people, that is hardly an option.

The rogues: From left to right, Me, Arlene Skrenes, Susan Leet, Bill and Maggie Zimmerman, Phil Jerg and our bus driver Tim in front of the 9/11 Memorial Reflective Pool.
During the ferry ride to New York, the upper deck of the ferry was closed. However, the upper deck of the ferry taking us back was not, so of course we had to go up on the deck for the ride. And of course we had to go all Kate Winslet in Titanic and take photos of ourselves leaning out over the bow. We were also joking around all day that we were “going rogue” because we took off, hopped the border into New York and had our own little expedition.

Well with me in the group, you know there is bound to be trouble. Although I am proud that I only had one police contact while here (surprisingly I was not caught the first day when I went WAY beyond the Police Line Do Not Cross tape). What can I say? In order to live, you’ve got to take risks, and all of them on this trip paid off.

Earlier today I closed my eyes, clicked my red ballet flats together, and recited “I don’t want to go home, I don’t want to go home.” Unfortunately, it did not work. I have enjoyed being the last one to bed at night because I am up until midnight blogging for you guys, but this will be my last trip entry. As I sit here at 11:27 p.m. on Friday, April 5, I am sad that at 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, our bus will depart New Jersey and begin the long trek back to Wisconsin. The days passed by in a flash, and the work was so rewarding. I’m sure my mom will see the irony: I hate cleaning my apartment, but was totally excited to clean up for complete strangers. If I could, I would totally stay here for at least another month, helping out in whatever way, shape or form I could. 

Every night in my dreams...Modeling Kate Winslet in Titanic on the ferry. The 9/11 Freedom Tower stands tall in the background.
This trip has definitely been the fuel to my fire, and the flames are being fanned. Every time I do something like this, helping someone else, it really does make me feel good, makes me feel like I am having an impact on someone else’s life for the better, and I have been searching for a way to do that since college. As time goes on, I would love to be able to serve my country and the world in whatever capacity I can, helping others and changing lives for the better.

I am so thankful for the people in my life who helped give me this opportunity. A large thank-you goes out to the people who sponsored me, my Aunt Joan and Uncle Ned, Aunt Mary and Uncle Steve, Aunt Sue, Aunt Julie and Uncle Scott, Aunt Barb and Uncle Charlie, Aunt Elaine and Uncle Bill, Grandma and Grandpa Wittrock, Grandma and Grandpa Goetz, Karen and Rick Klemp and the surprise last-minute donation from Peter Klein. Without all your generous donations and support, this trip would not have been possible. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all of your generous contributions.

I also want to thank St. Albert Youth Minister Lisa Kueter-Anderson, who was the brains behind the mission trip. She organized the whole she-bang and kept us updated during the whole planning process. She was also the one who dreamed the whole trip up. Without her, there would have been no trip, and I would not have the wonderful memories I made on this trip.

Thank you to my boss, Chris Mertes, and our General Manager, Barb Trimble, for agreeing to let me go on the trip and giving me the time off to go. I know firsthand how difficult it can be when one of our staff members is gone for a week. There is still layout to do, meetings to cover, and when I am gone, it is up to Chris to finish up my layout and cover my meetings and events. It can be a very heavy burden. Both Barb and Chris will be pleased to hear that I did not get nailed in the head by a 2x4 and develop brain damage, so I will be able to return to work on Monday.

Outside of the World Financial Center in New York City. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)
Finally, I would also like to thank the group from Elyria Catholic High School in Elyria, Ohio. Without them, this trip would have been over before it begun. We needed 30 people to take the bus on the trip, and only had 16. Were it not for them agreeing to share their bus with us, this trip would not have happened. And kudos goes to the strong high school males on the trip, they took the initiative on the roadside cleanup and were carrying up all the heavy equipment: air conditioner units, doors, docks, a random metal jug. They played a big role in our efforts. Without them, we would not have been able to get as much done.

I hope that volunteer efforts will continue in the upcoming months. The people definitely need help, and the men and women I was able to speak to will remain in my prayers. In the meantime, I hope others will step forward and do what they can to Restore the Shore.

To see more photos from the day's events, click here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Day 3 - A Personal Touch

Today I chose to be part of a smaller group of 7 that was headed to the Salvation Army in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The other 46 people in our group helped with the Bucket Brigade and installing linoleum in a house.

From my end, we arrived at 9 a.m. at the Salvation Army and had an hour to learn the ropes before the facility officially opened to the public at 10 a.m. The Salvation Army had three lines of tables. The first line included women’s winter gloves, children’s slippers (with a Star Wars Darth Vader head), water resistant boots and racks of men’s and women’s clothes. The middle line was stacked with different food items, from canned green beans and corn to peanut butter, jam, soup, canned tuna and bags of cereal, to name a few. The final line of tables were stacked with hygiene products, such as toilet paper, soap, baby wipes (which can double as wet wipes), toothpaste and cleaning supply buckets. A couple tables toward the back also had blankets and hand towels.

Two girls from Elyria Catholic High School in Elyria, Ohio unload a box of waterproof boots. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock) 

Most of the people I helped choose items (they stressed to not use the word shop, that word can have a connotation to it and many have nothing, no homes, no jobs, no money) had been at the Salvation Army before. However, I did help one man who did not know about the Salvation Army before and yesterday was his first time there. I definitely helped him grab more items than anyone else I had today. In addition to him and his wife, he has four children. There were times when he would turn to me and ask me how many can I have, just one? My response was go ahead and take whatever you need, then reminded him that he can come back every seven days. But so many of these people have very little, so I had no problem giving him two 24-packs of water bottles, numerous cans of corn, mac and cheese, coffee, etc. And the Salvation Army said told us they could take what they want.
I helped a few people right away in the morning, but then two trucks arrived stocked with supplies. Since I am young, energetic and fairly strong, I opted to let some of the other people help up front while I unloaded the truck. I helped fill at least a half dozen carts with packs of water bottles, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc. At one point I filled a cart with water bottles packs, 24 bottles to a pack. We filled the cart six packs across and four tall. When the cart was filled, I wheeled it in the building all by myself and unloaded the whole cart, also by myself. I was joking around, with all the packing and unpacking of items, saying I’m going to be so buff by the time I get home, lol. Things really picked up in later morning, and I was unable to break until 1:30 p.m., when my stomach was mirroring Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, screaming “Feed Me!”

After lunch I returned and spent the rest of the time stocking items as they were taken and helping people pick up the items they needed. I have to admit, I managed to stay composed, but some of the stories were very hard. When Katrina hit it was a media frenzy, tons of coverage, the volunteer efforts. But out here, volunteer efforts are focused on main tourism areas, and I wish I could say the stories of people not getting what they deserve are once in a while, but that is not just the case.

Two trucks filled with supplies for the Salvation Army, including toilet paper, hand soap, chicken alfredo individual meals, tote bags for children and packages of 24 packs of bottled water. The bottled water was a God-send for people, considering we actually ran out of it that morning.
This morning I spoke with a woman, Sandra Bauman, who lost pretty much everything. Her house took on five feet of water and the foundation of her house was split right down the middle, she said her house is bowed and she lost more than $70,000 worth of equipment that was in her house. The township declared her house unlivable, condemned and she has to demolish it. The insurance is another story completely. She said an insurance claims investigator came out to the sight, saw the crack in the foundation down the middle. And he actually had the audacity to tell her that her house is not unlivable, and that she should just pour concrete down the crack, that will be fine. The insurance company gave her $30,000....$30,000 and her house was insured for $165,000. What makes it worse is she cannot apply for additional aid from FEMA because FEMA will only reimburse for up to $30,000, and she already received that in insurance. Some of my fellow volunteers who worked there the past two days shared similar stories. One of those stories was about a man who lost everything: his house and his property and belongings in Hurricane Sandy, and both his wife and son died in the months since.

However, I also met the most amazing man at the Salvation Army today. ??? owned a lot of non-commercial property on the ? island, he said approximately $2 million worth of land. When Hurricane Sandy hit, he lost pretty much all of that. Can you imagine? A major storm hits and you take a $2 million loss. He has not been reimbursed for any of that. If that was me, I think I would be so overwhelmed by a sense of loss, I don’t know what I would do. Yet instead of cursing God or Mother Nature or the government, he has faith. Don’t get me wrong, he was frustrated with the way government works, but when I asked him how he was going to recover, he goes “I’ll be fine.” He said he has been helping other people that suffered in Hurricane Sandy and he has also received help from other people. He is trusting that with help, he will be able to recover.

What I found interesting is Hurricane Sandy was not the first major hurricane he went through. Most of the people I talked to said they were not prepared for anything like Hurricane Sandy to occur, and that the last major hurricane in the area occurred a little more than 50 years ago, in 1962. Well ? was 12 years old at the time when the 1962 hurricane hit. Ironically he said going through the first hurricane taught him things, and he was better prepared for Sandy last October. Again, for someone who lost so much, I was just amazed at the positive attitude he had. It was a breath of fresh air.

Our volunteer group at the Salvation Army on Thursday, April 4. Between unloading two trucks full of donated items, sorting and stocking the items and helping the day’s visitors, there wasn’t an idle moment. 

We talked about other things as well, and at one point he told me that I should always reach beyond, reach for the big goals and to never let others discourage me. I told him that is how I normally am, and whenever someone tries to get me down or tell me I will never accomplish my goals, I fight tooth and nail to prove them wrong, and as a result I usually succeed. Apparently my attitude brightened his day, and as I helped him load his bags of groceries into his car, he told me that it was a pleasure meeting me, that I brightened his day and he would be in a good mood for probably a month.

The Salvation Army closed for the day at 4 p.m., and while we were waiting for the bus to pick us up in 40 minutes, we decided to take a stroll about a half mile away and check out the house that the Jersey Shore cast resided in. I settled for just checking out the outside of the house - you could tour the inside for $10, but honestly, the show irritated me and I never watched it, so I did not feel like going in. Outside the house an organization was actually selling clothes - sweatshirts, T-shirts, sweatpants, and some accessories, sunglasses, coffee mugs, slippers, to benefit the people affected by Hurricane Sandy. I purchased a black sweatshirt for $25, with the words Restore the Shore printed on it. Most of our group members purchased something, knowing that pretty much all the funds would go back to helping the victims.

Although I do not watch Jersey Shore I did decide to check out the house while I was there, especially since it was only 10 minutes walking from where I volunteered. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)
Tomorrow will be our last full day in New Jersey. The National Relief Network did plan a fun day for us - they say whenever they take a group somewhere they build in a fun day so the volunteers can see something besides just devastation, they want to share some of the good in the area. So....tomorrow we will be traveling to Hoboken and meeting up with....the Cake Boss! Not gonna lie, a part of me would honestly prefer to go somewhere else and help with more disaster relief (and I am not the only one on the trip who would like to do that), but tomorrow should be pretty fun. My last blog post from the trip will be posted early Saturday morning. We will depart at 6 a.m. Saturday morning and return to Sun Prairie close to midnight.

A part of me can’t believe this trip is almost over. I’ve been looking forward to it since I first heard about it in January, and the time flew by so fast. However, I also feel a sense of accomplishment. I was definitely not wasting time or lazing about, I put in a solid 7 hours of work every day, and even doing somewhat heavy lifting at times. So while I wish I could stay longer and help, I will return with a sense of accomplishment and happiness that I made a difference in the lives of other people. For some of the people at the Salvation Army today, just listening made a world of difference.

A roller coaster on the Seaside Heights shore, still submerged in water. Again, I was naughty and wandered beyond the Police Do Not Cross yellow tape, only this time I got busted. Oops. At least it was after I got the shot. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 2: Cleanup continues

After staying up until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, my day began at 6:30 a.m., all bright and blurry-eyed. After a quick shower, I headed to the dining hall for some breakfast, courtesy of the National Relief Network. After breakfast 10 of our group members headed over to the Salvation Army to assist with helping the survivors find what they need and listen to their stories. The rest of us, myself included, headed back to Little Egg Harbor to continue our cleanup efforts. I must admit, the area today wasn’t too bad. Don’t get me wrong, certain areas were pretty trashed, lots of wood, doors, even an air conditioner. There were also tons of bottles, bags, styrofoam, even a few tennis balls. Another one of our group members also discovered the handlebars to a bicycle, but no bike. We did find a single pedal and bar from a bike though. 

Piling some wood beams and a garbage bag full of bottles and other trash onto one of the piles our group assembled during clean up at Little Egg Harbor.  

There was a lot more work in the morning, a lot more piles. At noon we too a break for lunch, and continued with the cleanup again later. However, once we crossed the bridge there was some cleanup to do, but within maybe 45 minutes there was nothing, no trash. We assumed that because the area was wide open that any debris that was there just got washed further down. The main areas where there was a lot of junk were areas with trees, which probably trapped the debris. Still, we managed to make a sizeable dent.


Elyria Catholic High School boys lug some of the heavier debris up a small hill and lift it over the guardrail to put by the side of the road. Thank God for those high school boys, they dominated removing the major/heavy debris. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)
Even though the area was not as bad as other places, we still made a difference. Every piece of trash that we picked up, all the major wooden and metal objects that the Elyria Catholic High School boys lugged up, is something less that the locals or other relief groups have to do. Plus, the areas that were majorly affected like Breezy Point and Hoboken are the areas that are getting a lot of attention, a lot of aid. Smaller areas like Little Egg Harbor do not get as much attention, the devastation may not be as severe as other areas, but that does not mean the work is any less important. So while we may not be in an area that is completely and totally devastated, we are working in an area that otherwise might not be a priority to other groups.

Towards the end of the day, we were greeted by a special visitor: Little Egg Harbor Mayor John Kehm. The mayor, along with a couple of his administrators, took the time to come out and thank us, and to tell us just how much our help means to them, and how much they were affected by Hurricane Sandy. That visit was a complete surprise to me. While none of us on the trip are here for recognition - we are here because we want to help others - it was really neat to have the mayor stop by and speak to our group.


Trust me...I'm a reporter: Little Egg Harbor Mayor John Kehm stopped by say thank you to our group, and got a kick out of my hat.

The rest of my group introduced me to Kehm and told him that I was documenting our trip and would be writing an article for the Sun Prairie newspaper, The Star. Then they told him about the hat I was wearing all day, which EVERYONE got a kick out of. The hat in question was given to me by my boss a few months ago, which he picked up at the Newseum. It is a black cap, and across the front, written in white, are the words “Trust me....I’m a reporter.” When I donned it again, Kehm got a kick out of it and started laughing, and we had to get a photo together.

We then departed Little Egg Harbor and headed over to Seaside Heights. I have to admit, that was much harder to see. Seaside Heights was hit pretty hard. By the ocean’s edge are huge sand piles, I’d have to say probably 10 feet tall. That was not there before Hurricane Sandy hit. As a matter of fact, that area used to be the Boardwalk. While some houses in the city were just fine, others were abandoned and beyond repair.


No, I did not take the photo crooked. The above house in Seaside Heights, N.J. was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. In addition to pretty much having a side of the house destroyed, the foundation was damaged, tilting the house sideways. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)

More than a few houses were knocked off their foundation and slanting on one side. Still others had sides missing from their house, or sides completely knocked in and reduced to piles of wood. CDs, alarm clocks, DVDs, and the rest of the contents of houses were scattered all around. But one of the hardest things for me was the American flag by one of the last houses before the beach. Despite the storm and the raging winds that Hurricane Sandy wrought, the flagpole was still standing. A portion of the flag was gone, the tattered remains flapping in the breeze.

It was hard to see that flag tattered and torn, because it is a symbol of our great country. But at the same time, it also symbolized the strength of our country, and of our people. Winds in excess of 60 miles per hour raged, trees were uprooted, houses destroyed, lives lost. Yet that flag stayed rooted. It might have been tattered and torn, worn out, but it survived, it remained standing. While our country and community might be worn out and devastated, the strength of our people remains, the strength of our country is what keeps us able to weather any storm, face any tragedy, with determination.

Despite winds in excess of 60 miles per hour and damaging rain, this American flag, taken in one of the more seriously damaged areas in Seaside Heights, survived. While tattered and torn, I view it as a symbol of the strength of the United States and the American people. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)
Tomorrow I will be heading over to the Salvation Army to help those affected by the storm, to hear their stories and provide a strong shoulder. The rest of the group will be heading somewhere different to help with a bucket brigade and put linoleum flooring in a house. While a part of me wishes I could do that with them as well, I would rather spend time getting the human interaction, the people that went through this firsthand, just providing the listening ear so many need.

It is easy to help clean up an area, easy to quantify a natural disaster into dollars of damage and lives lost, but sometimes we forget the human interaction. For those of us not affected, it is houses destroyed and debris, but for the people that survived, it is the total loss of everything, their homes, their land, and it can be devastating. As a journalist, I have a duty to share those stories, to make the public understand the real emotions and lives behind the tragedy, to put a human face to it. And to let those affected know that they are not forgotten, they continue to be in our hearts.

Photo taken from atop one of the large sand dunes by the beach in Seaside Heights. Shh, don’t tell the cops, but we were definitely not supposed to be there. The whole beach area was beyond the blockade. Sometimes as a reporter you have to take risks. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)

To see more photos from Wednesday's cleanup, click here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Mission Trip - Day 1: The Cleanup Begins

OK, technically it is Day 2 of our trip, but our first day was 16 hours on a coach bus, so I’m not really counting that.
Anyway, we did get to sleep in a little later today due to the fact we rolled into camp at midnight and didn’t really get settled in until 1 a.m. Breakfast was served at 8 a.m., and we were able to make a sandwich and grab some fruit and a granola bar for lunch.
The rest of our morning was spent raking leaves at Pinelands Camp. Leaves, leaves everywhere. Even though it is in the woods, the woman in charge pointed out that it is a camp and they do try to keep the grounds clean.
The raking crew: After 2.5 hours of raking, the grounds at Pinelands Camp were nice and clear and ready for campers.

Apparently the camp was also affected by Hurricane Sandy last fall. The storm swept through the area and took out the camp’s generator within an hour.
The raking passed by pretty quickly, and with 47 people, our group made quick work of the area.
After lunch, we boarded our coach bus and traveled about 45 minutes to Little Egg Harbor, N.J. When Hurricane Sandy hit, the area was under between three and four feet of water. Based on some of the stuff that washed up, it is easy to believe.
Some of the items that washed up include: a boat, part of a roof, a dock, dozens of beer bottles, a coconut (yes, I actually found a coconut), a golf ball, cinder blocks, a large metal jug, styrofoam, part of a metal crate, probably for catching some kind of marine life, tons of wood and various other little. We spent about 2.5 hours picking up debris along a road. During that time we managed to clean both sides of the road about 7 feet out, for a half-mile. Not bad for a few hours work. We managed to fill dozens of trash bags with all the debris. If you stacked them all together, it would probably fill a space 6 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet high, but that is just an estimate. 

Among the debris washed up by Hurricane Sandy was a roof, bottles, a coconut, and yes, even a boat. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)

There was a man with a professional video camera, Kirk Jarvis, with us at the cleanup site as well. At first I thought he was a TV reporter, but it turns out he is actually putting together a documentary about the cleanup efforts that are going on. The project, titled Both Sides of Sandy, should be completed by the end of the summer. For more information, visit
After the cleanup we did get to witness some of the more profound devastation. We visited the city of Tuckerton, and I was humbled by the scene. According to our guide, 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes, and of those homes, 800 were condemned. The remaining houses have to be raised on wood poles 14 feet above the ground, which can cost the homeowner between $30,000 and $50,000. Apparently FEMA will reimburse the cost, but the homeowner has to pay up front. It really makes you grateful for what you have. Living in the Midwest, we do worry about blizzards and tornadoes, but the chances of a natural disaster wiping through our area and causing that kind of devastation is slim to none. No hurricanes or tsunamis, earthquakes or volcanoes. Negative temperatures in the winter seem a small price to pay for the relative security living in the Midwest grants us. 

Hurricane Sandy forced 5,000 Tuckerton, N.J. families out of their homes, and of those, 800 houses were declared condemned. The houses that are deemed still livable must be raised 14 feet above ground. (Photography by Rachel Wittrock)
I must admit, it does feel good to be a part of helping a community heal. Tomorrow it sounds like we will be returning to Little Egg Harbor to assist with more Hurricane Sandy cleanup, and on Thursday I have committed to go to the local Salvation Army. Apparently they need volunteers to help check people in, stack supplies and help the people that come select what items they need. 
According to a small group that went today, the Salvation Army is providing counseling to people affected by Hurricane Sandy, as well as supplies: toilet paper, toothpaste, food, diapers, cleaning supplies, water, whatever they need. The first time people come they can choose to participate in counseling, and at the end of the counseling they also receive a $50 gift card for each person in their family. So if there is a mother, father and two children, they would receive four $50 gift cards, for a total of $200.
The group of six that went today recounted some of the stories of people that received services. Apparently there was one more who lost everything, his house and possessions, and then sadly, his wife died shortly afterwards, leaving him all alone. Another woman was so relieved when she heard about the counseling being offered, she didn’t really care about the gift card, she was just at her wit’s end and needed someone to talk to.
Yet another person, a college student by the name of Christian, said he was grateful for Hurricane Sandy. Although his home was destroyed, he said his family came together to help rebuild, and it actually made them closer as a family. As horrible as Hurricane Sandy, it is nice to hear some of the good that came out of the tragedy.
Our day concluded with dinner back at the camp and a little group bonding and card game. Everything is going well, and I can’t wait to continue helping with the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy again tomorrow. To see photos from the day's events click here.
I’ll be posting a blog every night we are here through Friday, so stay tuned for the next part of this amazing journey... 

Today's debris cleanup crew, which consists of volunteers from a Christian high school in Ohio, and 10 of the 16 members of our Sun Prairie group.