Sabadosa: Catholic youth group helps out in Kentucky
By Regina Sabadosa Citizen Journalistemail@example.com June 28, 2012 12:34PM
The St. Catherine of Alexandria youth group works at one of the Kentucky sites. | Supplied Photo
Updated: August 2, 2012 6:08AM
The St. Catherine of Alexandria youth group recently returned from its annual mission trip.
Thirty-two youths, along with eight adult chaperones, spent several days in early June helping a community in need. In addition to St. Catherine, volunteers from St. Linus, St. Germaine and Queen of Martyrs parishes participated.
You may recall hearing about the series of tornadoes sweeping through a large section of the southern United States on March 2. One of the hardest hit towns was West Liberty, Ky.
“The whole town is just gone. The new courthouse, the new phone company is gone. The funeral home is gone,” said an American Red Cross volunteer who helped coordinate efforts to find shelter for the town’s evacuees.
To add to the devastation, a freak snowstorm followed three days later, dumping five inches of snow onto the remains of the tornado.
Sadly, numerous residents of West Liberty had to just walk away from their properties since many were uninsured and federal aid was delayed in reaching them.
When planning this year’s mission trip, St. Catherine of Alexandria’s youth minister Terry Landstrom connected with National Relief Network, a nonprofit national disaster relief agency out of Greenville, Mich. Through the organization’s representative Mary Skelonc, the group was assigned to work with some of the local residents who were still dealing with the storms’ aftermath.
According to adult chaperone Greg Ludwig, the group made quite an impact when its caravan rolled into West Liberty: four white passenger vans following a white National Relief Network tool truck.
“Everyone would always wave or honk their horns when they saw our yellow work shirts. They were so appreciative,” said adult volunteer Sue Blackburn.
During the eight-day trip, Blackburn kept supporters at home connected by posting daily on Facebook about their efforts. For example, she wrote, “We demolished a house, stripped soaked walls and insulation of a dental office and built a shed so a house could be cleared for repairs.”
“These trips aren’t always just about the work — they’re about the experience for the kids,” Ludwig said. “Most important is the human element.”
A homeowner named Shirley worked with the teen volunteers to salvage as much of her belongings as possible. The kids cried along with Shirley as they bonded through shared stories and memories.
“This time it was more about putting people’s lives back together,” Ludwig said.
While there, the youth and adults were the guests of the Rev. Paul Prabel, pastor of Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church in Moorhead, Ken. When they were not on the work site, the teens played team building games like “In It to Win It,” and prayer and worship music was led twice daily by 19-year old member and musician Phil Caffee.
The SCA volunteer group was featured on the 5:30 p.m. local news on June 7. Caffee was the spokesman and told the WKYT broadcast that, “This trip is the work of God, and everyone is committed to making a change for the better. We are happy to make a difference for the people of West Liberty.”
“The kids contributed a ton,” said chaperone Mary Glavis. “Every mission trip brings its own sets of challenges and rewards. The kids always gain so much from these trips. They are wonderful life experiences which they will carry forward for the rest of their lives.”
Adult volunteer Ed Costin joked that being part of the demolition crew was good for “getting frustrations out.” He also said this trip was different from past mission trips because no special skills were needed to do the work. Kids of all ages could equally help out.
Chaperone Jim Hayes planned the activity for the last day of the trip, which was a reward day for a job well done. The group went to Carter Caves, a Kentucky State Park in Olive Hill, where they toured a bat-filled cave. They also took a scenic hike, went swimming and had a barbecue before returning home.
Landstrom told me she was most impressed with “the selfless behavior of the participants and willingness to not only extend physical sacrifice to help others but also to connect emotionally with those that experienced loss.”
The SCA youth group wishes to thank the Oak Lawn Home Depot at 95th Street and Pulaski Road for its continued generous donations of tools and supplies used on this trip.