My ears are still recovering, but my spirit is soaring after our day today. We arrived at the Roxy bright and early and eager to continue our project. In previous mission trips experiences, the kids usually experience several one-day projects tailored to the short attention spans of middle schoolers. This is different, and I think all the kids are loving it. Seeing day-to-day progress on one big project seems to be a highlight for some of them and a source of pride for others. After receiving our morning instructions, we got to work. Most of the kids grabbed a hammer and started pounding. One nail per six inches on every single joist. Every. Single. One.
They quickly finished the several boards that were placed, so many of them went to run a few quick “errands.” They dropped off the books from our book drive, delivered cinder blocks to another work site, and delivered our site trash to the construction refuse site. I wasn’t there, but it sounds like they enjoyed being productive while those of us left at the Roxy got things ready for their return.
While they were away, our alignment crew measured and marked every spot a nail was needed. They also made sure newly cut boards were flush with the base supports. Meanwhile, I (Melissa) had a blast using the circular saw to cut and trim pieces to fit. I now have a very close bond with a certain SKIL saw and look forward to working with her again tomorrow.
When the kids all returned, they got back to work hammering and nailing and hammering some more. When we later shared highs and lows, almost every single kid named their low as a hammer vs. finger injury. They may be a bit bruised, but they are certainly not beaten! They are so very proud of their progress!
In the midst of all this productivity, there was no shortage of opportunities to mingle with the locals. One interesting thing I’ve noticed in my brief interactions is that nearly every male I’ve met is over sixty and ALL but one are sporting a hat displaying either the war in which they served or their branch of the military. And the one that wasn’t wearing a hat had a Marines sticker on the window of his business. This is one proud and patriotic community and they have plenty of hope to go around as they continue to recover from the ravages of the flood.
One man we met was introduced to us by one of our kids. Jake spotted a man down the street and asked permission to go out and chat with him. Heather walked out with him to make sure all was safe, and then let the two of them get to know each other. It turns out “Champ” owns a bar and grill and is working hard to rehab the place to allow him to reopen. Despite the fact that his pool table is still covered in flood mud, the new drywall is up and the floor tile was delivered to the curb today. Since Jake had built a relationship with Champ, he offered to “employ” the kids to help him move the two pallets of tile into the building. Although we didn’t hire the kids out,we were more than happy to let them knock out a very big job ina very short time. Champ was thrilled to have the help and was impressed with our “good kids.” He kindly insisted on making a financial contribution, which we quickly passed along to Next Step, the organization through which we are providing this flood relief. It was a win-win-win!
We finished the work day with a trip to Dairy Queen to celebrate all the blood, sweat and sore thumbs from the day.
Our sheer exhaustion and sore muscles didn’t stop us from fully enjoying those frozen treats, and we look forward to another full day tomorrow. We know that there will be some big problem solving challenges to tackle (the age of the building provides so much character and history, but also walls that aren’t square or even parallel and floors that aren’t level), but we are ready and hopeful to tackle another big section of construction. We may see some more sore thumbs, but we’ll also see kids gaining experience and expertise with hammers and drills, and more importantly, the opportunity to bring smiles to the faces of the residents of the town of Clendenin.