Saturday, December 29, 2012

New York ....

Today we spent the day in Long Island, NY helping a family rebuild. It is amazing to see the strength of these individuals out East. What could have and maybe even should have destroyed their spirit, has not! I have learned so much from these people in my short time having been out is just amazing!

I am not gone yet, and already am trying to figure out when I will return.

If you have not checked out the organization that I am working with this time out here, please is "We are Team Jersey" ...I have met 3 of the 5 board member's, and they are AMAZING!!! They really do know the true meaning of giving back to their friends and neighbors.....I wish there were more people like this group of people in the world.

I will update again tomorrow as it is late, and I need to be up early in the morning to "make a difference" in the lives of others. Please continue to keep myself and the entire East Coast in your happy thoughts and prayers as they do their best to rebuild their lives.

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Jersey.....the tragedy continues!

It has been a crazy wild ride since I first started doing Mission work to New Jersey to help with Hurricane Sandy. I have said it on many occasions that my heart never left the East Coast after my vacation in October with Maddy.

Well as many of you know, I am back here again! I left December 26th at 5:15 a.m. and arrived at 4:30 p.m. due to a few flight issues again :)

The first day was a bit of a blurr....I met Shannon, my host "mom" (even though she is younger than me)...haha. Shannon started We are Team Jersey all on her own after Hurricane Sandy and has since recruited so many volunteers that she is becoming a nonprofit organization. She is an amazing woman with a huge heart. Check her page on facebook and you will see her passion for doing this!

The first day I arrived, New Jersey was getting hit hard with a massive rain storm :( Several of the properties we needed to get to were flooded ....some we accessed after low tide hit and the water receeded. Crazy stuff.....they can not seem to catch a break!

Today I went and spent the entire day in Wenonah, NJ - working on a home that had a fire....this was very heartbreaking. The family was very appreciative of everything we did. We had the help of 7 fire fighters from Georgia that came down for the week to volunteer their time and talents as well as 2 gals that drove from Pennsylvania and a few locals. What an amazing Crew we had. Oh, and I can not forget the family from Virginia - they and their children were a great help both today and yesterday.

I have no idea how Shannon from We are Team Jersey does it. Last night she informed me she and an emergency board meeting and asked if I could be her for the day! My friends, I like to get dirty, but facilitating it was definately something new for me :) It all went fantastic thanks to Joe....we made a GREAT TEAM. I will post pics and update again tomorrow....until then ....please keep us all in your happy thoughts and/or prayers.

Peace, Love and hugs! Monica

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Merry Christmas .........

As Christmas approaches, I have been asked by many friends and family what I want for Christmas.  As I thought about it, I came to a definitive conclusion......I wanted to go back to the East Coast to assist with the relief efforts. As I have said numerous times, my body may be in Minnesota, but my heart is still out East!  

So....what better gift than the gift of being able to help others?  

My flight is booked and I am headed back to the shore on  December 26th. 

Because I am flyin,  it limits the donations that I can take.......but I am able and willing to take what I can.  Needs at this time are gift cards for Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, or. Visa cards. They could also use cash donations to help with the supplies we need to help them get their home healthy enough to live in.    

If you would like to donate anything , please let me know!  Ever little bit helps. :)

While I am there, I will have the opportunity to stop back and visit with the families we helped on the first go round.....I can not wait to see Carlos and Ms Liz.   

Please send happy thoughts or prayers our way as we work together to rebuild and restore the East  shore!

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.  Humanity matters!  ( my favorite saying lately).  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Good afternoon.....I have been home since November 25th, 2012.  It has been a whirlwind! 

Getting back to reality has been a lot more difficult than I had ever expected it to be.  Going on a Mission Trip is truly life changing.  It is very difficult to put into words, but for any of you that have ever done anything like this, you know what I am talking about.  For those of you that have never done such a thing, the one thing I can say is that it will forever be in your heart and on your mind 24/7. 

I have mentioned on facebook a few times that my heart is still on the East Coast, and that is a fact.  It is hard to walk away from them when there is soo much to do.  I have made several connections on the East Coast just from being out there one week and have many opportunities to return to help them.  I will be returning for sure....just trying to work out the details with my job, family and other commitments.  As a Christian, I do believe that as an able bodied person, It is a responsiblity of mine to be the hands and feet of god :)

A Coworker of mine is what prompted me to get back on my blog and update it.  She said she saw a news report that volunteerism and donations have decreased already out East.  This makes me sad to think that is the case.  These people have lost everything and rebuilding will be going on for years!  It doesn't go away when the news stops reporting about it.  This is where my coworker come's in......she told me it was my right and responsiblity to share my story, the pictures that I took, etc. so that everyone knows just how bad it really is out East.  Imagine coming home after being gone for a vacation to find your entire home destroyed, and all of your personal belongings out on the street for the City workers to pick up.....this is what people there are dealing with on a daily basis.  It is life changing for them......for the fortunate ones that are able to keep the frame of their home; it will need to be totally stripped, treated for mold and rebuilt 4 feet up on every wall; all flooring or built in cabinets have to be removed as well.  There is a lot of work to be done.

There are some amazing peoople and non profit organizations that I have met out East (specifically New Jersey) that are working their tails off to help neighbors, friends, and virtual strangers.....but they need our help.  If you feel compelled to help in any way, please let me know and I can put you in touch with the people that are in a position to help you out.  Or if you would like to donate anything that I could personally take with me when I go back, I would be happy to transport that as well.  I do know that they are currently most in need of gloves, mold masks, protective clothing for cleaning, etc., gift cards for Home Depot, or Lowes (No Menards as they don't have any of those stores out east).  Please let me know if you would like to donate to our friends on the East Coast.

Driving into Atlantic City, New Jersey there was bulletin board that said "Nice try Sandy, but we are Jersey Strong".....I believe that this is true and they will rebuild, but it takes all of us to rally together to help make that happen.

Have a GREAT DAY, and I will update when I think of new information that should be shared.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day in New Jersey!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from Long Beach Island, New Jersey.  

Today we started our day out in Long Beach Island, New Jersey to see if there was anyone there that could use our help.  We stopped and talked to the awesome people at the Red Cross and they told us that it seemed like most of the folks had gotten help from FEMA - which is great, but that meant there is not a lot of need for us here.  They fed us a wonderful Turkey dinner.....ah, just like at home :)

So, since we were not really needed there, we stepped out to the and all.  It was amazing!  

After our little outing at the beach we headed to Atlantic City, NJ to do some mission work.....that was fun!!!!  

We walked around and met a lady by the name of Ms. Bates....she was the sweetest woman ever.  She told us all about how she used to take in children whose parents could not or did not want to care for them.   But when the Hurricane hit, she was saddened that only one out of the many children she raised called to make sure she was ok.  When we showed up, she was reluctant to allow us to help her because she has felt so rejected lately.  After offering her food and a warm blanket, she ultimately agreed to allow us into her home and give her those items.  Ms. Bates cried and said that Jesus sent 4 angels to her today when she felt rejected.  I gave her a card from one of the Children at St. Annes along with a blanket.....she was so greatful :)  While there, she said she needed some cleaning supplies  too, but the distribution center was not open and she did not feel comfortable going there to take hand outs.  We hugged her and told her we were driving, we felt like we really needed to help her out, so we headed to the store and bought her some cleaning supplies.  We also bought her some flowers.  I will never forget the look on Ms. Bates face when we returned.

We started out in an area that had several homeless people in the park and wanted to give them food that we had brought with and blankets if needed....we were barely there 5 minutes and a police officer arrived with his lights flashing and told us "you stick out like a sore thumb all need to leave, this is not somewhere you want to be".  That made my heart sad.  Isn't our job in life to seek out the lost soles and give them hope.  I was determined to do that even if I could not do it there.

We stopped a few blocks up and walked the streets.  There were several people at the bus stop that prayed with us.  We handed out several turkey dinners and blankets; The stories we heard today were heart many people have so many reasonst give up, but they don't!  They keep going.  I am glad to know we could help them today and put a ray of hope back in their day that God has not forgotten about them.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 3....working on destroying Sandy's damage :)

Today is day three......Wow, where do I start?

This week has been crazy amazing thus far!  As we were driving to Atlantic City all this week, I noticed a sign on a billboard that said "Nice try Sandy, but we are Jersey Strong"!  In my heart, I know that the Jersey Shore Will be bigger and better because of this tragedy they call "Hurricane Sandy".  There is soo much work left to do here, that I am sure it seems very overwhelming to the people here; But, just from the people I have met so far on this trip, they have a passion for their homes and where they live....they will NOT be defeated.   Knowing this, makes me OK leaving at the end of this week.....I will be back; I don't know when, but I WILL be back for sure!

For the past three days we have worked with Varnell and Carlos' family, they have become like family to me and the rest of my group as well.  Today was the last day that we had to spend with them, and it was bitter sweet....We did some crazy amazing things in their homes(2 of their 3 homes are completely stripped and ready for a rebuild...and the insurance company was there today as well :).....I am so proud of all that we were able to accomplish for this awesome family.  Ya see, Varnell and Carlos had no idea that we were going to help them at all until Laura, Bobbie, and myself showed up on their doorstep on Monday and after chatting with Carlos and looking through his homes, we just knew they were the ones that needed our help this week.  We did not come here with an agenda except to share our love and be the hands and feet of god!  I believe we did just that for this family and it makes my heart smile :)  Carlos shared with us that when his momma called and told him 3 woman were on their way to the house and wanted to help, he was very reluctant and thought "yeah, ok, woman???"....upon our leaving him, he hugged us and told us that he will never doubt the power of a woman and the love of god again....he sent us as his angels to help him regain hope and faith again....Mission Acomplished!!!!!

Another thing that amazed me while finishing up Carlos' home is that Atlantic City Workers were there picking up the mounds of trash off the street.....several workers helped carry out trash and dump wheel barrels before they went on lunch.  One of the workers came back early from his lunch break and came right in the house and offered his help until their crane operater arrived.  He not only helped, but when two more of the city workers arrived, he had them helping as well!  Atlantic City Workers, you have made this Minnesota girl proud :)  Thanks for your help guys!   

We then headed to the shelter to drop off more donations for the displaced homeowners from Atlantic City......very overwhelming!  Their faith here is amazing, it kind of makes me feel guilty about the Americanized lifestyle we take advantage of in Minnesota.  We are so very FORTUNATE!

After going to the shelter, we went to downtown Atlantic City to help an elderly woman remove a few items from a crawl space.  I was saddened to see a child about 8-10 riding his bike down the rode smoking a cigarette :(  There were homeless people EVERWHERE.  A lot of those people slept under the piers when they were still standing, how many died, where do they go now?????  A lot of questions going through my mind as I type.

This evening, we spent the evening leading the youth group from Calvery Chapel.....made me miss home seeing these kids, but it was great to get to meet them.  So many of them could not even tell me where Minnesota was :)

Tomorrow, we will be going to serve the homeless and other lost soles in any way we can.  We want them to have a reason to give thanks....I don't really know what that looks like, except to tell you that just talking to them, listening to them, not judging them, offering them help, offering them hope, and just loving on them makes them smile; even when there was not a smile on their face for weeks.  And really, how long did it take out of my day to accomplish that.  I now have a personal mission upon returning....I will seek out the people that just need a little hope....christian or not, they deserve to feel the love that all of us have in our lives!

I am getting very long winded, but I really do feel blessed in my life.  I have heard such horrible and nasty stories on my trip...things that NO ONE should ever have to deal with......and they feel like there is no hope left, until after we just love them!  Crazy what love can do I tell ya!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Carlos & Momma Varnell

Waiting to help Virginia

The waterway in Virginia's backyard where hurricane sandy flooded

Isn't she cute!