On Sunday, September 4, Elise Shell, Kevin D. Smith, Kevin Koeppen, Glenn Ford and Tommy Harrel left First United Methodist Church Winnfield for a 4 day mission trip to help residents in flood ravaged Baton Rouge. They stayed at First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge (Downtown) and worked at Katie Young’s home on Clayton Drive in North Baton Rouge. Katie is an 80 year old single lady whose home had never flooded before and had no flood insurance. Even though Katie’s home was on piers and about two feet off the ground, she still received about 30 to 36 inches of water throughout most of her home. Other homes in that neighborhood that were on a slab received over 5 feet of water in their home!
The team started their work on Monday, September 5. After completing the necessary paperwork, meeting the family, and prayer, we started by removing the furniture, carpet, carpet pad, and lower kitchen cabinets. All of these items had to be removed either by dolly or wheel barrow to the roadway where they will be picked up and thrown away by debris removal contractors. It was emotional and heartbreaking to gather together, remove, and throw away clothes, pictures, pots, pans and so many other personal possessions. Mucking out after a flood is literally taking all (or the vast majority) of your possessions that got wet, placing them near the street to be thrown away, and starting over from scratch. It is difficult to imagine how hard this is unless you have been there. You are throwing away treasured possessions and memories. This took most of our first day. It was a hot, emotional, difficult day, made only a little easier by Frostop floats and a good night’s rest at the end of the day.
The second day, we planned to gut the house, meaning removing wet materials
like sheetrock and insulation so that the studs, the framework of the house, can be exposed to the air and dry. This is an essential step. The studs must dry before being closed in so that mold and mildew do not form inside the walls. We removed the paneling and the upper kitchen cabinets that were already moldy just three weeks after the flood. As we began to remove the sheetrock below 4 feet from the floor, we discovered the sheetrock was nailed to a solid wall of tongue and groove boards throughout the house. The boards in Katie’s home were already molding and they were preventing us from exposing the studs so they could dry. We consulted with several people and decided to remove two of the horizontal boards below the four foot line to allow air to the studs and begin the drying process.
Day three started with the process of removing the wooden tongue and groove boards. This was difficult, tedious work, as the boards did not want to easily leave their home for so many years. Many of them had to be cut out instead of pulled out with a crowbar or a wrecking bar. This job took all day, especially since each board had to be wheeled out and piled near the street to be picked up and thrown away. Our team was also down a man, since Pastor Kevin returned to Winnfield to lead Wednesday evening services.
After a good meal on Wednesday night (and another Root Beer Float), we were ready to finish on Thursday. We removed the rest of the boards, exposing the studs, so that the drying process could finally begin. The rebuilding process is still several weeks away as the interior studs must dry before rebuilding. Before leaving, we gathered together to pray for God’s blessing on the house and its occupants. We finished our work on Thursday afternoon and returned to Winnfield about 5 PM.
Special thanks to our friends at First United Methodist Baton Rouge for housing and feeding us. They turned a portion of their Youth and Children’s building into a bunkhouse and provided us three meals a day. Special thanks to these people who gave of their time, sweat, money, and themselves to help other people that they don’t even know. Thanks to Rusty Russell for the use of his trailer and we are especially grateful to Ryan Etherige who loaned us a generator to run a few fans in a house without electricity. Thank you to the people of First United Methodist Church Winnfield for providing us with tools and supplies to do the work. Thank you to the community and our local businesses. When we purchased tools and supplies, we shared with the businesses how we would be using them to help those who had been flooded. Walmart and Tractor Supply gave us discounts. We appreciate your support!
But don’t stop! Don’t quit! There remains much to be done! The list of homes yet to be gutted is in the thousands! While we working, some folks in the neighborhood asked if we could come help them next! All we could do was refer them to our friends who were coordinating the effort. Maybe you will be the ones who will help them! The recovery of Baton Rouge will take years, perhaps decades. Please continue to give, help, and pray for the people of Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.