Through our connections through local churches, our fields sometimes get referrals about homeowners in need of assistance. These calls can be unexpected (sometimes we have no idea how they got our number!), but they have been some of the most rewarding projects for us and our volunteers.
This spring, our New Orleans team had one of these calls. Mrs. Angela had reached out to one of our church partners asking for help preparing her home for the return of her terminally ill son. It was a time of great distress for Mrs. Angela. Her ex-husband had died the year before, and her son was so overcome with grief that he fell into drug use, resulting in a nearly fatal overdose. Complications after his hospital stay led to a rapidly deteriorating condition. When we met Mrs. Angela she was preparing his house to be fit for hospice. Our team in New Orleans met with Mrs. Angela to see how we could help, and it was apparent that not only did the house need physical work, but Mrs. Angela herself needed someone to talk to during this stressful time.
We always take a few minutes before heading to a work site to explain to our groups what the project is and why it is important. After we had loaded up into the vans to head to Mrs. Angela’s, a phone call came that changed our focus for the day. Jessie talked to Mrs. Angela on the phone while Allie went around to each car. “Our project has changed. Mrs. Angela’s son died over the weekend. We are still going to help her clean up the house so her grandkids can stay with her, but we will go at Mrs. Angela’s pace. If anyone feels comfortable, please take time to sit with her, she could use some comfort.”
The relational aspect of a project can be unpredictable, especially in such a sensitive situation. It was a slow start, but the volunteers from Creekside and Owasso jumped right in and cleaned with gusto. The truly impressive part came the next day. Mrs. Angela greeted us with joy and called the volunteers her kids. They sat together while sorting clothes, food, and forgotten toys. Laughter began to replace somber silence. Mrs. Angela’s relatives came to visit and told us how much she loves high school kids, and that this was a great group to have with her at this time.
At the end of the week, everyone was reluctant to leave. Mrs. Angela brought out her bible and a journal for the volunteers to sign and write notes of encouragement. Without being asked or prompted, a group of the high schoolers prayed over Mrs. Angela. This project was counter to our expectations from the moment it started, and it was so much more than anything we could have planned. While the cleaning and painting were a great help, it is the notes inside a well-worn bible, the laughter over old clothes, and the prayers of high school students that truly held the impact.