Wabash Blogs Singing, Serving & Swinging: Spring Break 2010 -

March 16, 2010

Final Thoughts from New Orleans

Professor Jon Baer - We returned to campus in good order after an outstanding week in New Orleans. During our five days of work rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina we were able to accomplish a great deal. Our main project was a new build; thousands of homes in New Orleans were so compromised by the hurricane and resulting flooding that they had to be demolished so new homes could be constructed on the lots.

We focused our efforts on a site where we found an elevated platform (new homes are being built four or six feet off the ground) upon our arrival. By the end of the week, we had constructed the basic framework of the house — walls, trusses, sheeting, etc. We worked very hard and made huge progress towards rebuilding the home of a displaced New Orleans resident. A couple of students from our group also worked two days on laying tile in another home, and all of us spent an hour or so during a rainstorm in a third home moving sheetrock to help prepare the house for an initial inspection. Other volunteers who stay at Westside Mission will continue the work at each of these homes in the days and months ahead.

The woman who resided at the main property at which we worked is Rose Gueringer, a long-time New Orleans resident. For years Mrs. Gueringer’s mentally handicapped brother lived with her and her husband, but not long before Katrina both her brother and her husband died. Mrs. Gueringer faced the hurricane and dislocation and exile in its aftermath alone, and she wants nothing more than to live her remaining days in her own home in her own neighborhood in her own city. Since Katrina, Mrs. Gueringer has been living 135 miles away near Lafayette, Louisiana, but we helped her take a significant step back toward Carnot Street, in the Gentilly or Elysian Fields section of her home city of more than 50 years.
The residents of the other homes we worked on — Lou Bautiste and Margaret Banks — have similar stories, and indeed the stories of tragedy and suffering are multiplied thousands of times over. I’m grateful that along with hundreds of other volunteers at Westside, we’ve been able bring some measure of hope and renewal to Mrs. Gueringer, Mr. Bautiste, and Mrs. Banks.
I thank God for the privilege of serving people in need in New Orleans. I’m also thankful for and immensely proud of the 11 Wabash students who participated this year. Each of them could have chosen a more relaxing, easier way of spending his spring break. They could have rested, spent their time catching up on schoolwork, or perhaps even headed to a fun beach location. Instead, they chose to drive 15 hours for the opportunity to get up at 6:15 each day to labor building homes for strangers they may never meet in a city far from home, then turn around and drive back. These are young men of strong character and abiding faith, and they represent the best of our Wabash mission to “act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely,” and even to “think critically” (it takes a lot of critical thought, calculation, and planning to build a home).
I’m also grateful for the fortitude, camaraderie, and compassion of Prof. Dave Maharry, who models the rich tradition of Wabash faculty committed to the well-being of students and the larger community. Without the dedication, planning, hard work, and faith of Keith Strain, Paul Cass, John Hooper, and Dave Lunsford, from First Christian Church in Crawfordsville, we would have gotten much less done; indeed, the trip would not have been possible without their efforts. As you’ll see from this blog, all of us — students, faculty, and Crawfordsville residents — learned a lot about ourselves, about New Orleans, about suffering and hardship, and about service, grace, and hope. Finally, I remain inspired and not a little in awe of Brother Vance Moore, whose faith, commitment and desire to help those in need has enabled more than 5,000 volunteers from around the country to rebuild homes in New Orleans.
One afternoon in New Orleans we cut off a bit early because a downpour had begun, so we took the students to the Lower Ninth Ward, the hardest hit area of the city and where we had worked the last two spring breaks. The devastation and destruction that remain in lower-class and working-class areas like Gentilly are hard to believe, but in the Lower Ninth Ward it is astounding and profoundly disturbing. Four-and-a-half years after Katrina it looks like a war zone, filled with vacant lots, houses that appear just as they did when the waters receded, piles of refuse, and much brokenness.
Even in downtown New Orleans there are numerous high-rises and large buildings that stand defunct with shattered windows and other remnants of late August 2005. But in the Lower Ninth Ward that afternoon we passed by the homes of Ray and Clara Foxworth, Thelma Tyler, and Ray’s brother Willie Foxworth. A group from Wabash and First Christian had worked on these homes in March 2008, and they’ve now been occupied for well over a year. Last year I had the pleasure, along with David Swann ’10 and Eric Griffin ’10, of visiting each one of these homes and talking at some length with the owners. Similarly, we passed by homes we worked on last year, some now occupied. And I look forward to future visits with Mrs. Gueringer, Mr. Bautiste, and Mrs. Banks. There is more than enough despair to go around in New Orleans, but there are also signs of hope renewed, lives restored, and love amid the ruins.
Matt Hayes ’11, Paul Hudak ’13, Jeff Kessels ’10, Matt Levendoski ’12, Chris Pearcy ’10, Cody Schroeder ’11, Brock Sibert ’12, Cory Tiedeman ’11, Tom Wade ’11, Garrett Wilson ’13, Graham Youngs ’11. Some Little Giants!

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March 15, 2010

Trip Had Bigger Impact than Expected

Brock Sibert '12 - Well, we are currently on I-57, just southeast of Ullin, Illinois. We have been on the road for almost 11 hours and still have about 300 miles to travel before we reach Crawfordsville. Nonetheless, the long ride home has allowed me to do some reflecting. This past week has really been one of the most fulfilling experiences that I’ve ever, well, experienced. I can be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical about coming on the trip. Not being an extremely religious person myself, I had this pre-conceived notion that I would end up feeling out of place or out of my comfort zone doing mission work for Brother Vance and his Westside Mission. But, my fraternity brother, Jeff Kessels, insisted that I go, convincing me that it would be a great experience. So, I hopped into the van at 5:30 last Saturday morning and we began our journey to the Big Easy.

Monday morning began with a bit of a hiccup, as my clumsiness got the best of me, and I took the honor of garnering the first “on-the-job injury.” However, I was left with a pair of my own personal stigmatae (I tripped, my hands came down on top of a wire fence, and a couple of wire spindles went into the middle of my palms.) and the rest of the week went without a hitch. 
We managed to get a lot of work done, including building the frame, putting sheeting up on the sides, and getting all of the trusses up. I was also able to gain some new friends, creating new relationships with a great group of guys whose hearts are definitely in the right place. To top it off, I know that Ms. Rose will greatly appreciate her new home once it is completely finished. 
Overall, the trip was wonderful. It was comforting knowing that a group of guys who previously didn’t know each other could come together and accomplish a feat such as building a house in order to help out a city that is in dire need of assistance. There is a lot of work that still needs to be accomplished in New Orleans but every little bit counts, and with a little effort and faith, this work will eventually be completed. 
I want to give a huge thank you to Dr. Baer, Dr. Maharry, Brother Vance and his Westside Mission, all of the guys from the First Christian Church in Crawfordsville, Father Dave, Lambda Chi Alpha-Alpha Kappa Zeta, and all of the guys that accompanied me on this wonderful trip and made it a week to remember!

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March 14, 2010

School Sweet School

Gary James ’10 - After six action-filled days in our nation's capital, the six externs and I are now back at school.

It’s only been a day, but the realization that school (and all that comes with school) begins tomorrow is weighing down on my body like damp clothes after a winter’s storm and on my psyche like a guilty conscience.

Here’s to dry days and a clear conscience.
Don’t forget to move your clocks and watches forward.  

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Reflecting on NPR Changes

Gary James ’10 - One doesn’t have to search very far or for very long to see how changes in technology and communications influence the way businesses and organizations operate. National Public Radio provides an instructive example of this phenomenon.

The extern group visited NPR national headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue Tuesday morning, and we were given a lot of information about how the organization is growing and has grown.
Most people are probably aware of NPR or NPR-affiliated programming like Morning Edition or All Things Considered available on the radio. However, NPR has extended its reach to multiple platforms now. One can get most if not all NPR programming at npr.org. I can’t remember the last time I actually listened to NPR on the radio since I don’t have a car.
Many NPR or affiliated programs can be downloaded on iTunes or with iPhone apps. But even more than programming, NPR now has a presence on twitter and facebook. NPR music and Digital News have a wide selection of tunes and commentary. The increasingly integrated nature of NPR mirrors our increasingly hypermediated world.
I was reminded about this by Pam Dorsey, our externship contact at NPR, who described changes to the organization. NPR operations will be changing locations to a bigger building. NPR HQs is currently divided among three buildings. Soon they will all be in one. The mostninteresting part of this is that all is that most of the staff will be on one floor.
One floor.
To put this in perspective, NPR has about 415 employees. The reporters, editors, and producers are distributed among a few floors currently, mostly cubicles but some offices too. Most of those people will soon be on one floor. The goal is for the organization to be more integrated and more efficient.
I think this vision for a more integrated organization mirrors the realities of today’s world – our insatiable hunger for information and the many ways we have to receive it. It makes one wonder not just where NPR will be, but where we will be in 5-10 years, when the world we know today will be a little out of date.

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March 13, 2010

The Next Opportunity

Andrew Swart '12 - Well the weekend wasn’t as I had envisioned our start to be. After a fairly successful campaign last year, the team’s expectations were high going into our first 2010 game. However leaving them our outlook on the season could have been a little different. The two teams we played gave us a good indication of the work we had in front of us. I still had the positive mind set although the taste in my mouth was anything but sweet. Dave Seibel said it best Sunday after our fourth game, “lets get the heck out of Alabama”. I agreed with Dave, and was ready for a new environment and a new start. Monday we set out for Dallas, Texas, which was to be our home for the next five days.

Along the eight-hour trip we stopped half way in Jackson, Mississippi, at the Mississippi Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was another awesome opportunity for us Wabash men. For the second time we had been fed and entertained by Wabash alums. Chris Dieg, Derrick Bailey, John Pennington, and I all talked with Dr. Taybos (left) who is the head of the Oral Oncology program at Mississippi University in Jackson. We talked about a wide variety of topics, anything from his experiences at Wabash to the life of medicine. The conversation was not only incredibly interesting, as we touched on how traditions have changed, such as sphinx club involvement, to how Wabash prepared him for Medical school. Since all four of us are pre health we were all quite interested in what he had to say.

Beside the great opportunity with different alums I myself had an amazing time catching up with family from Mississippi. My Aunt Belinda, Uncle Ron, and Cousin Austin, all joined the team for lunch and hung around to talk about Wabash. Austin being a senior in high school is in the middle of his college search and hopefully after today won’t have to look far. It’s amazing how Wabash has not only brought current students and alums together through the love and desire acquired after you graduate from Wabash, but also possibly bringing a family such as mine together. Austin living 800 miles away, we rarely saw each other except for around the different holidays and now we have the chance to not only attend the same institution but also play on the same team.

The Hall of Fame Museum was great but as we embark on our journey home I can’t help to think about the next chance at redemption I’ll have. Unlike a position player a starting pitcher doesn’t get a chance to rid the soar taste from his mouth the next day. We have to wait for our next start. So as I sit on the bus and try to envision a brighter outcome for the Little Giants and myself It’s hard to push that last game to the back of my mind.

Brittain Warner '13 - While most people spend their spring breaks sitting on the beach, the Wabash Baseball team would rather spend it on the baseball field continuing to improve and compete every day. Thus far we are 3-5, and are continuing to improve our record after a slow start. The competition we face is great and really tests our ability to perform well. We are beginning to come closer as a team, and it shows with how much we have improved. All of our hard work in the off-season is beginning to show.

Personally, I have had a great experience so far. I have seen some time as pitcher and a bit as a hitter. My first game starting as a Little Giant was a JV game against Letourneau University. I was nervous, but ended the game with 2 home runs! It felt great to do well, and I cannot wait to prove what I can do again.

Thursday we were given a tour of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. It was unbelievable! I have never seen so many flat screen TV’s, which included the world’s largest HD jumbotron! The locker rooms were incredible! I went to Tony Romo’s locker (right) and saw letters from girls who had given him their numbers to call them back. It was hilarious! We also got the privilege to get a tour of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders' locker room. There were pictures of every cheerleader above their locker and they were gorgeous. Overall, it was a great experience and I will never forget it.

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End of Week Provides Time for Reflection

Graham Youngs '11 - At the start of our stay in New Orleans Pastor Vance challenged us to identify what motivated us to participate in Westside Mission this year. As my week comes to a close it seems clear that I have gained several things in the process, namely: a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of satisfaction, as well as a fairly ridiculous farmers tan. 

Today as we erected the final trusses on the roof, I had a funny feeling that this trip has been more service oriented than I originally thought. True we spent the week building a house for a Ms. Rose; however, we did not actually see her reaction to the completed house. I have often participated in mission programs and served impoverished people face to face. These sorts of programs allow you to see the direct benefits of your labors in the form of gratitude. Perhaps a simple ‘thank you’, or smile. 

This week however, we simply served as another cog in the Westside Mission machine. Ms. Rose will never know our faces and we most likely won’t be there to witness her initial reaction to her new home. Instead it seems to me that gratitude has been manifest in the overwhelmingly kindness shown to our group by many inhabitants of New Orleans. 
Our service therefore, was not merely building one house in Elysian Fields, but continuing a sense of hope for the Community in New Orleans.  I’m not sure if I could identify exactly why I chose to participate in this year’s trip, but at the end of the week I can say for certain that I was able to provide a needed service.        

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Finishing up in New Orelans

Paul Hudak '13 - Last day down here in New Orleans was amazing. Garrett and I went to this other site for the second day to work on ceramic shower walls. This process took a long time. There had to be at least fifty different ceramic tiles that had to be cut for just one bathroom. Once all the tiles were cut the rest of the walls were put up pretty quickly. At the end of the day you could not tell where our hands ended and the adhesive began. It looked like a two-year old kid finger painting. Unfortunately, we did not finish the bathrooms, there still needs to be a wall put up in one room and another row in the other. 

When we got back to the other site it looked like a different house. All the trusts were put up when we got back all they were about ready to head back to our place of residence. On the way back we hit the more traffic today than the rest of the week. But today is the last day we will get stuck in New Orleans traffic. 
Later on in the night the French Quarter will be the last place we will visit down here in New Orleans. 

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