Sept. 25, 2006

Delano group travels to help Katrina victims

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

Ten Delano residents traveled to Waveland, Miss. to help victims of Hurricane Katrina last July.

The group consisted of Rachel Theisen, Daniel Vomhof, Mason Hammerlund, Katlin Andres, Scott Carlson, Bruce Droogsma, Jon Bongarts, and Dave and Margaret Kittok. All the group members, except for Bongarts, are affiliated with Delano Evangelical Free Church.

The trip was organized by Minnesota Katrina Relief, an organization based in Cokato.

The Minnesota Katrina Relief was created by Alan Nagel, who got the idea when his son went on a college sponsored trip to Waveland to help. The group is affiliated with Christian Life Church, of the Christian Missionary Alliance located in Waveland.

The group met in Cokato Saturday, July 22, got in a van, and started the 1,200-mile trip to Waveland. On the way, they stopped in St. Louis, Mo. to stay for the night. In the morning, they proceeded on their way to Waveland.

A couple hundred miles from the Gulf coast storm damage started to become visible. The first thing they noticed was the top of the trees were damaged.

As they got farther south, the damage on the trees kept getting lower and lower, until finally the roots were completely pulled out of the ground.

When they reached Gulfport, Miss., the drive took them past the Gulf coastline, where miles of beachfront were still covered in debris.

Inland didn’t look any better, with a 30-story building in ruins, and boats still hanging in the trees from water rising and retreating back into the ocean. In fact, the water reached as far as 30 miles inland.

Arriving at Waveland, they were surprised to see buildings in good condition standing next to buildings that were completely destroyed.

The group proceeded to Camp Katrina, the Christian and Missionary Alliance location for volunteers. Camp Katrina is located in a transformed auto parts store, using the warehouse as a bunkhouse. There, they joined eight other volunteers who came to help.

The group went during a slow time for volunteers. An official from Camp Katrina told them that volunteers usually pick up when summer vacations and the hot weather end. Last spring, Camp Katrina alone had more than 100 volunteers a week.

During the days, the group worked together and was also split up to maximize the volunteers. They did a variety of jobs such as shingling, Sheetrocking, ripping out rotten walls, cleaning, insulating, and mowing.

At night, they had time to relax, talk, and on Friday night, had a Bible study with the members of the community.

On Saturday morning, they made the 21-hour trip back to Minnesota, with most of the group members wanting to go back sometime and continue to help.

“The gratefulness of the people down there; one person said to us ‘we think you have angel’s wings,’” Dave Kittok said.

During the trip, the group had their own experience with nature. They encountered a thunderstorm in St. Louis on the way home, where they saw a lighting strike hit two trees on the side of the road.

They also encountered very hot weather where shingling had to be stopped for the day because the shingles were smearing underneath their feet, and in addition, a member of the group, Droogsma, got bitten by fire ants.

For information on how you can help the Katrina Relief, visit www.mnkatrinarelief.com.

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