team photo

The homeowners are pictured in front. Also in the picture is everyone from Lend a Hand that week and the YAVs. — Dan Bohnker

Story by Dan Bohnker, Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) at the Little Rock site, working with PDA

What an adventure! We recently made it back from one of the most memorable trips that I have taken. The trip was two weeks long with one being at Point Pleasant area of New Jersey and one week in Jamaica, New York.  We worked under Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) at both sites. Both sites had a different group we worked with and had different responsibilities.  

For the first week we stayed at Point Pleasant, New Jersey but worked at a house is Long Branch, New Jersey. We were picked up at the airport by a person who works with PDA, David Rauer, he took us out to eat and then showed us some of the damage the storm caused. There are several homes that have been repaired. Most of these were homes that belonged to people who had insurance or had the financial means to rebuild quickly. However there were also several houses with damage that hasn’t been fixed and empty lots where houses once stood.

After touring around we met the group we would be working with, Lend a Hand. This is a group from Central Pennsylvania that has a lot of experience in working disasters including the 2008 floods in Iowa. They had also been instrumental in setting up the Point Pleasant site after Sandy had hit and had sent a group every month for the past two years to Point Pleasant.

The next day we went to our primary location, a house in Long Branch, New Jersey. The residents of this house were a young couple who were living in a camper on the front lawn. Their house had been destroyed by the floods Sandy had created. They also didn’t have flood insurance because the experts had said their house was not in the flood plain. During the storm Russ, the husband, had been checking on the generator outside when the house collapsed. If he had waited just a few minutes he would have been a victim of the storm. April, Russ’ wife, was a first responder who was working during the storm. After the house collapsed Russ took his two dogs and swam to safety.

On Wednesday we went out to a place called the Shrimp Box. This place had high quality foods and the meals were all around or over 20 dollars and with drinks the average person’s meal was probably around thirty dollars. Lend a Hand invited several people to join us at the site including the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance leaders of Point Pleasant, and a person whose house they had helped rebuild on a previous trip. This lady was so grateful for all the work the group had done for her that she paid for all of our meals, which was about 20 of us, regardless if you had worked on her house or not. After the group had finished her house she had been given a grant and was looking for a way to repay the people who had worked on her house, saw an opportunity and took it. This just shows how appreciative people are for the work Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and other disaster organizations do in these areas. During this week we did a lot to get their house to the point where they could get a temporary occupancy certificate. We finished the flooring, put in counters and the appliances, just about finished the bathrooms, put insulation on the pipes (my primary job) and several other small jobs. It was great experience being there towards the end of the project because one could just see hope, optimism and joy return to them. They were very appreciative of all the help we gave them. They invited us to a barbeque they plan to have to for all the volunteers who had helped at their house this summer.  Another thing I really enjoyed about the sites we were at was the proximity to the beach. Only being a couple of blocks from the beach we ate most of our lunches there including the day of October 14 which was my birthday.

Dan sitting on floor working with drywall tool

Dan applies drywall mud

team photo

Southern Comfort Mission and Missionary Team

After the week was over we were picked up again by David and taken to Jamaica, New York. We took our time though and visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Both were great but I learned a lot from Ellis Island. Many of my ancestors had been through Ellis Island and the rigors of coming to America so they, their children and eventually me, could have a better life. We had the next day off so we went into New York City and saw Central Park, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and several other famous sites.

The group we worked with in New York was Southern Comfort Mission and Missionary Team from Upstate New York. They too had lots of disaster recovery experience including lots of work in New Orleans where they got the name Southern Comfort. 

Story and photos shared with PDA by Dan Bohnker, a 2014-2015 Young Adult Volunteer.  Little Rock, Arkansas, is one of the YAV sites, including the opportunity to work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.  Learn more about the year-long YAV mission program


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