A group of volunteers from cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet and members of local communities get ready to leave Saturday morning for their mission trip to Washington, IL. | Jaime Angio/For Sun-Times Media
For more information on getting involved with volunteering or donating for future trips to Washington, contact Jason Novak at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the St. Elizabeth Seton Naperville Facebook page.
Updated: January 31, 2014 6:28AM
‘Tis the season for giving, however, two local churches see no season for a reason.
Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet and St. Elizabeth Seton in Naperville joined forces this weekend for a mission trip to Washington, Ill., to help clean up the debris that still remains from last month’s tornado.
Nearly 35 volunteers from both parishes and members of local communities gathered in the early morning hours on Saturday to caravan down to Washington.
The St. Ray’s group left from Shorewood, with their rakes in tow.
And the group from St. Elizabeth Seton left from Naperville in a caravan, that including a 15-passenger van Central Collision Center in Mokena. The volunteers brought with them 12 new coats that were purchased by the Knight of Columbus- St. Elizabeth Seton chapter, gloves that were donated from Allied Valve, Inc. to help residents brave the winter, along with clothes and cleaning supplies.
Jason Novak, 28, is the Youth Minister and Director of Young Adult ministry at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Naperville. Novak helped organize Saturday’s mission. This is something Novak is familiar with.
He has organized mission trips to Moore, Okla., and Joplin, Mo., and Saturday, marked the third mission trip down to Washington.
“About a week after, (the tornado hit Washington) our Knights of Columbus and junior high students came up with the idea of a drive to collect donations, clothes, cleaning supplies and food, anything you can think of, and we made one trip to Coal City and two trips to Washington to drop of the goods,” said Novak.
“Taking donation to the sites down there, cat and dog food, water, garbage bags, toothbrushes, mouthwash, cleaning supplies, towels, clothes, every day things people need. This kind of a common thing, it’s our job to help others and be that Christ-like person for others.”
On Saturday, volunteers hit four different work sites, cleaning up debris and cutting down trees. They take the debris wherever it is on the property and get it to the curb or to the dumpster so the city can tow it away.
Nick Puleo, 35, of Joliet, said if something like the tornado in Washington happened to him, he would appreciate others helping.
“I went to the mission trip in OK. and that was a life-changing experience,” he said. “I wanted to do something like that for a while and when I heard the news that there was another tornado closer to home, I just felt a calling that I wanted to go down and help. A lot of things we can do it’s not necessarily something that people think when they help out, they can do simple things like cleaning up and picking up rubble, cutting down trees. It’s all stuff I can do, I have some skills in carpentry, but predominantly they need people there to support and do the nitty-gritty kind of work until they can get everything cleaned up to where they can start to re-build.”
Justine Carlson, 18, a senior at Joliet West High School is a member of St. Raymond’s Cathedral youth group. This was her first mission trip.
“It seems like I can actually do something on this mission to people that actually need our help and I though it was a good opportunity,” Carlson said. “I came with my hoodie, my rosary, protective eye wear and some food.”
Alex Narciso, 22, of Plano, is a senior majoring in Theology at University of St. Francis in Joliet and this was his second trip to Washington.
“I’m just thinking about all those people that are still in need. Especially since it’s winter, how they are still surviving in this cold,” Narciso said.
Novak says the amount of support with volunteers efforts and donation gathering and organizing from the adults and teens has been a great thing to see.
“We’ve gone to Joplin and Moore and it’s been a couple of months after, so we haven’t fully grasped everything and with this being 100 miles away and even in Coal City, it’s more real,” he said. “For them to see this type of destruction that close to home really hits homes and it makes them want to go on these trips and donate whatever they can and help.”
Novak plans on doing more mission trips to Washington.
“We kind of whipped this one up fast because a lot of the college students are home, I would like one trip a month until things are done or better.”