SWU students spend fall break helping flood victims
A group of Southern Wesleyan students rolled up their sleeves during fall break – all for the benefit of flood victims in Pennsylvania.
Adam Ladd, who works with Southern Wesleyan University’s maintenance department, was planning a trip to Athens, Pa., hometown of his wife Jennie, a 2008 alumna from the university, to help with relief efforts after the town was damaged by Tropical Storm Lee’s floodwaters early last month.
Ladd decided to contact Southern Wesleyan to see if anyone else wanted to be involved in flood cleanup or send donations. Dave Tolan, who coordinates student missions activities at Southern Wesleyan, asked Ladd if he would be willing to lead a team and organize a missions trip.
“I accepted, and things started falling into place,” Ladd said, adding that God helped them to plan for the trip, despite the tight time frame. When fall break started, Ladd, his wife, his mother, Judy Ladd, and four Southern Wesleyan students boarded a university van for the 15-hour journey to Athens. The students were Mary Fairchild, a senior exercise science major from Athens, Pa., and Jennie’s younger sister; Emily Martin, a freshman human services major from Sheridan Ind.; Mandy Barnes, a senior biology major from Easley; and Brandon Clardy, a freshman criminal justice major from Liberty.
The team, named “Dirty Hands Extreme,” worked with Athens Wesleyan Church, who provided them with work assignments. The idea for the team’s name came from a recent chapel in which University Chaplain Ken Dill challenged students to be willing to get their hands dirty in service to God.
When the team arrived in Athens, they were moved by the amount of devastation they saw.
“It’s easy to become numb to such things when you see them in the media. But when you get there and see people’s homes completely ruined and most of their things not salvageable, it really hurts,” Ladd said.
“The stuff I saw mostly was all the junk piled on the sidewalks. It really hit home because I had to remind myself that wasn’t junk, but it was people’s stuff,” Barnes said.
Team members washed windows and cleaned sidewalks of a local business that was trying to reopen. They also removed water-damaged drywall, plaster and insulation from area homes.
“We wore face masks and gloves to protect ourselves from contaminants,” said Ladd, adding that they removed more than 40 bags of debris from the home of an elderly woman who lived across the street from the river. The group then laid a subfloor and prepared the walls for new insulation and drywall.
“It was really hard for her to see us tearing down the walls when she’d come to grab some things to take back to the place she was staying. But when she saw the floor being put in and the insulation going in you could see the delight in her eyes,” Ladd said.
The team also encountered a handyman who was overwhelmed by the amount of work needed to repair one of the homes. But when he saw the van pull up, he was relieved. Ladd said they were able to get the home to a point where the man could do finishing work, such as hanging drywall and laying flooring.
Throughout the week, members of Athens Wesleyan provided them with lunch and dinner, as well as a place to shower and clean up.
“We got a lot done, but there’s so much more to do,” Fairchild said.
“Adam did a great job of planning and leading this trip and I was very impressed by the leadership he gave the team,” Tolan said, adding that there are plans to organize teams to serve in missions projects locally and regionally in the near future.
“Once we were there, we saw a great need where we were able to help the people in the area. It’s something we definitely want to do again,” Ladd said.
The team's efforts have already gained attention from the local media. Click on these links to view the news reports: