Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lasting Impressions

by Amber Czizek


Seeing the look in Emma's eyes everyday when she and David would come to see what we had gotten done. I also could not have enjoyed the people that I was around anymore than I did. The people on this trip were amazing.

My van was one of the best parts – including Steven Shelby, Quinton Clay and Anne Chapman, who where some of the most remarkable people I've ever met. And I can't forget Tammy Edwards on my crew, who I always had great conversations with. Last, my pod, which was full of wonderful people and we were really sorry for waking everyone up around 6 a.m. on the first day at camp.


The only bad part about this trip was realizing why we were there. These people lost so much and we could only do a little in a week. I just wish there was more time.

Amber Czizek is a Coe College freshman from Des Moines, Iowa, majoring in biology.

At a Loss For Words

by Diana Buresh

I have been at a loss for words since the morning we started this adventure. Putting my thoughts and emotions in writing is very hard for me. I feel blessed that I was allowed the opportunity to share a part of the lives of those I went with and those I served and who served me. I was given hope and faith from all who's actions and words showed me their is more good in people than I have come to believe. If I ever get the chance to do something like this again, I will in a heartbeat.

Diana Buresh is office manager and student worker supervisor for Coe’s Academic Computing Office.

Thursday, March 9, 2006


by Robert Fox

March 8, 2006 – As we drive today I reflect on the last few days and feel that today was the most rewarding – we were able to help set up the camp to have enough spots for all the Hillel volunteers. If our groups have been able to get week-long jobs done in two days, I have to wonder how much those 450 people can get done in three weeks.

There is a part of me that is highly tempted to find out if I can come down here for two months during the summer. I want to be able to work with these people and help motivate and organize groups in the camp site and the work sites. I’m surprised by the fact that my working as hard as I can actually motivates people, and that’s a fact I’m thankful for because other than saying “keep it up, you’re doing great” and similar phrases, I’m not much of a cheerleader.

I’m conflicted on my feelings about the damage I see. On the one hand, I can see the terrible losses that these people have experienced and know that this is a massive heartache even for those who came through relatively unscathed. On the other hand, and maybe because I’ve followed this story or because I see that there is still life here, there is still hope and I’ve seen places with neither anymore.

Robert Fox is a Coe College senior from East Troy, Wis., majoring in biology and philosophy.

Top This

by Quinton Clay

March 8, 2006 – Today our group of 10 completed our first task. Affectionately dubbing ourselves the “Top This” roofing company, I found irony in the selfless spirits and the professional work ethic.

Led by Jon Oswood, the six woman and three man crew successfully stripped, tarred and shingled the roof for an 81-year-old woman named Aida, who has lived in Mississippi since 1976. Aida and her son, Walter, were caught in their Biloxi home during Hurricane Katrina. Walter put his mother in the attic of their one-story home as the water rose. He later joined her, equipped with a hammer and a crow bar in case he needed to break through the roof to escape.

I was glad to see the pride and dedication of my group – Jon and Carter Oswood, Gayle Dunlap, Clayton Niewoehner, Kyle Scheer, Haley Pins, Cara Cavanaugh, Katie Elliott Stephanie Beecher and me. After swiftly progressing during a challenging day one, members of the group immediately expressed interest in staying with our project from start to finish.

I truly believe that each of us was touched by the thankfulness and appreciation shown by Aida and Walter.

Quinton Clay is a Coe College admission counselor.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Building Home Base

by Kendra Grams

March 6, 2006 – This week the camp has approximately 90 residents. Next week that number rises to 150. Thus, the camp has to be expanded and we were the first in the Coe group to help with that task.

We worked on tasks as varied as rocking the drive and clearing brush to provide summer volunteers with a shady area. We also spread wood chips and put up an electrical pole. Then we cleaned out storage tents, dried everything in the sun, moved the tents to make room for a more permanent kitchen, and put everything back in the tents.

As expected, I ache. I rested for 15 minutes before even working up the energy to shower. Then when I finally made it to the shower, I greatly enjoyed my "Navy shower." I was actually happy that the hot water was delayed.

When Kristin returned she offered us a ride to the coast, just to see the destruction. Perhaps it should be described as elimination. Entire houses are simply gone. Ironically, a row of churches have intact steeples, while their entire main floors are gone. The balcony of the First Baptist Church seems to be hanging from nothing while in its Sunday school wing you could pick out the old costume corner that now is strewn amongst the rubble. Speechless. Tearless. I don’t know how to react. Part of me just can’t.

Kendra Grams is a Coe College senior from Hastings, Neb., majoring in biology and German studies.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Pre-cleanup Thoughts on Selflessness

by Lindsey Buchheit

March 5, 2006 -- After one full day of driving (or shall I say, sleeping) and a night in the Presbyterian Church sandwiched in our sleeping bags, I feel so far away from Iowa. The weather is warmer, the speaking style is considerably “twangier” and all feels fresh.

Iowa is just the far-off homeland, that adventureless place we will return to at the end of our ambitious excursion.

Everything that has happened up until this point is, while I am on this trip, extraneous. I find the irony in how all-important factors such as the timely completion of Modern Poetry papers has all be faded into insignificance. However, I’m not all that shocked: it’s being replaced with an agenda of TRUE, real-life significance.

This is not to say that school does not have real-life significance, just that we are now preparing to participate in work that’s really affecting the lives of others for the better – in other words, we have a non-selfish agenda. In the daily grind of school, we focus on our own personal advancement. For one week, we are all focusing on the well-being of those besides ourselves. And this, despite slight anxiety resulting from simply not knowing exactly what we’re going to be facing, is refreshing.

Now, as we’re rolling down the highway in northern Mississippi with only about five hours until our arrival at the work base in Gulfport, a calm feeling of well-being is overtaking the slight anxiety. Iowa is so far away. I am here not to focus on myself, but to focus on others. I’m with 59 other individuals who are here to do the same. And it feels good.

Lindsey Buchheit is a Coe College junior from Fort Atkinson, Iowa, majoring in English and public relations.

Leading the Pack

by Lonnie Zingula

March 5, 2006 -- Screaming down Interstate 55 en route from Memphis to Gulfport, Van-tasia leads the Coe caravan for the second day in a row, or so it seems. Somehow, after seemingly leading this amazing race for most of Saturday, with our partners Van-imal House in hot pursuit, we were the second group to arrive in Memphis.

I blame one too many pit stops. They tell me it’s not a race, but it will be no surprise to my family that I treat it otherwise.

Our brief stay in Memphis was a nice reward for the week ahead. The Idlewild Presbyterian Church was a gracious host for the evening and I can’t imagine finer accommodations for the money – $25 for the entire group. We’ll stay there again Friday – if they’ll have us back – on our return trip.

Shortly after arriving in Memphis we unleashed the students on Beale Street with the simple instructions to meet us at the appointed place at 11:50 p.m. I’m pleased to report that everyone was present and accounted for without incident. I think that speaks to the character of the people who would sign up for such a mission, as well as Coe students in general.

Group leaders were treated by College Chaplain Kristin Hutson to a fine dinner at Isaac Hayes’ restaurant. Thanks Kristin! I savor the Memphis barbeque and suspect it will have to sustain me for a few days.

While meals will be provided at the workcamp in Gulfport, I’m keeping my expectations low so not to be disappointed. Likewise, we’ll have shelter and showers at Orange Grove Presbyterian Church, but I don’t expect any comforts of home.

As we make our way through Mississippi, my mind wanders back and forth between inconsequential things – like whether Mississippi’s own Brett Favre will retire or return for another season as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers – and the unknown – like the week ahead.

My excitement about the important mission we are about to embark on is tempered by anxiety over things I cannot control – like the emotions we’ll feel and the group dynamic that will develop as we lend our hands to the massive Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery effort.

More on that in the days ahead.

Lonnie Zingula is associate director of marketing and public relations at Coe College.

First Impressions

by Robert Fox

March 5, 2006 – Today we began to see the extent of the damage from the storm. As we got within 150 miles of the coast, it seemed that the damage from the storm began to be apparent.

Trees blown over, snapped at the base and pulled out of the ground were the first signs of damage. After that it was leftover debris that had been washed inland, and cars and a few businesses and homes that had been damaged. The area was of the type I recognized too well – areas of such poverty that it is impossible to tell what was destroyed before vs. after the storm.

We got into a town along the coast where the extent and range of the damage was much more apparent. At least once a mile there was a business that still had damage (the rest of the shopping center to which the Big K-Mart was attached was demolished) although it was more common for the businesses to have just cut their losses and leave.

When we got to the coast we found that there was still debris on the beach, some of which were items that were obviously the tattered remains of people’s lives. Along the shore there was a headless doll body floating in oil contaminated water and a place where people had set fire to the remnants of the dock to make a fire and lift a few beers behind from what may have been their farewell to their homes.

What used to be a state highway had collapsed into the ocean; an avenue of what used to be bars and restaurants was now 50 yards of sand between the foot-high remnant of the sea wall and the empty, storm-beaten houses up the ridge; and, on the last standing bits of the former dock, a tattered American flag waving in the ocean breeze. The destruction is even worse for how much was completely removed without any ability to tell what was there before.

The loss, powerlessness, and hopelessness felt by these people is going to be hard to really get a grip on completely. But I hope I can help a great deal, and maybe, by working and filling my week with toil, I can forget about my own problems while helping others.

Robert Fox is a Coe College senior from East Troy, Wis., majoring in biology and philosophy.