Archive for March, 2009

March 13, 2009

March 13th, 2009 by emhest09

It has been over a week now since my time in Waverly and I am going to try to thank everyone and anyone who made that trip the powerful time it was.

Thanks to Marty, Dave and Meg who worked so hard at putting together the groups and for giving me the best one (unbiased opinion of course)

Thanks to my parents and family who have always supported me in doing these programs and a special shout out to my sister Katherine who turns 20 today!

Thanks to Beth Alizzi (check her out on the Spirit of Holy Cross) for being a great group leader for the other Waverly group and thanks to “Waver-bee” for making this trip ten times more rewarding and fun!

Thanks to Shannon Drew for driving and waiting with Brian and me for 5 and a half hours to get a simple tetanus shot and for being so friendly and personable.

Thanks to Jay for leading us in song throughout week and good luck with your wedding and with the lovely Charve, we are all expecting invitations to the ceremony

Thanks to Red, Garry and John for letting us take 10 minute to knock down a shelf that would take any of you one hammer swing and for telling us your stories and letting us see your lives

Thanks to Brenda Drew for working so hard without any desire for reward or recognition. You are truly inspirational and remind me so much of my own mom who I love dearly, I think you will see all your hard work pay off in the future and I hope your 25th wedding anniversary is lovely!

Thanks to Pastor Marvin Drew for being the rock that this entire experience was based on. You and your church family have single-handedly brought new life to Waverly and your big dream will come true, I know it.

Finally and most importantly, thank you to Laura, Colleen, Brian, Garry, Christina, Casey, John Joe, Julie, Rosi, Liz, Kathryn, Kate and Marjorie. I don’t think a more perfect 13 people could have been put into my group and your enthusiasm, hope and desire to do good still inspires me. You ALL have greatness in you.

Thanks for reading!

March 6, 2009

March 6th, 2009 by emhest09

Emotionally overwhelmed may be the best term for my current status. I think everyone was in a bit of denial this morning as we were working that it was our last day in Waverly. We finished some projects, collected some trash and had a delicious southern breakfast – I swear I have gained 10 pounds since coming here. This evening was what has left me in such a state however. Boston College went home this afternoon so only the two Holy Cross groups were left but we were by no means lonely, we had about 20 kids to keep us company!

On Fridays the church has all the kids in the community come for games, singing and just hanging out.Tonight, since it was our last night, was special so there were other members of the community there as well and we all went into the Church to be together. The evening started with a slide show made by two of our group members which incorporated a rousing rendition of “Lean on Me” which had everyone swaying and singing. After a short interlude of “Old McDonald”, led by our own Zach Lavender, Beth (Waverly B’s leader) and I presented Pastor Drew and Brenda a book of memories and two of our spiffy Appalachia shirts. It was really nice because lots of group members got up to speak about their experience and how wonderful Waverly had been to us. Members of the Church family in Waverly spoke too and their thanks and love were truly moving. The most wonderful show of love and faith came from the Children’s choir who sang us a song along with other members of the community. The lyrics to the chorus were “I pray for you, you pray for me, I love you-I need you to survive” and though it is obviously a prayer to God, the adults singing, the people we had gotten to know so well over the past week, looked straight at us and reached out their arms to us. It was so overwhelming and as I looked around at my peers, the children singing and people like Jay, Pastor Drew, Brenda and everyone who had been so wonderful to us during the week, I couldn’t help but cry. My sister will tell you, I don’t cry-EVER, but I was a mess for the first time in literally years. Luckily I was not alone, almost everyone had a tear in their eye (even the boys!) and when the song ended everyone just went around and hugged anyone and everyone in sight. I have never experienced something like that and don’t know if I ever will again. Our last reflection was about 3 hours long and ended with tears and hugs again and as I lie here, knowing I will only get about 2 hours of sleep before a 10 hour drive tomorrow, I truly couldn’t be happier to be here in this town at this time.


March 4 and 5, 2009

March 4th, 2009 by emhest09

The past two days have been just how we wanted them…work filled! Here is an idea of the various jobs we’ve been doing and will be doing the rest of the week:
-Trash pick-up. Pretty self explanatory, we get to use trash picker-uppers and wear bright orange, FUN!

-Lawn work at Jay’s house and various houses in the area. A lot of us have done work cutting down branches, raking leaves, getting garbage (car parts, dolls, entire TV sets) out of woods around houses. All of this is done with the help of axes, machetes and some power saws…pent up aggression once again given an outlet.

-The burnt-out trailer. Holy Cross and Boston College have worked hard to completely demolish a trailer that was destroyed by fire. It was completely smashed to the ground in a matter of days!

Probably the most meaningful job has been all the work done at the gym. A few streets down from the Church is a two story building that serves as a gym for the community of Waverly. Pastor Drew told us the very sad story behind it; apparently years ago it was a place where lots of drugs and alcohol were sold and a few people actually were killed due to drug violence right outside of the building. Lily of the Valley eventually bought the building and shut it down before turning it into a gym. The gym is successful on so many levels. Firstly, I saw a man bench press 445 pounds, therefore it MUST be working! The guys from the area have actually won awards for their weight lifting and training in the gym, I certainly was impressed. Secondly, and most importantly, the gym has given men in the community something else to do besides drugs and is a positive place of comradary and hard work. It was very easy then to get up early and walk over there in the morning because we knew what we were fighting for. With each stroke of the paintbrush, hammering of a nail or swinging of a sledgehammer, we had a goal. We were definitely “swinging with a purpose” and everyone worked really hard to improve the gym that had already brought new life to the community of Waverly. All of the jobs we did, whether it was demolishing a building or cutting tile for a bathroom, were done with heart and with great effort because of the connections we made in the town and the genuine feelings of gratitude we had towards the community that was feeding and housing us for the week.

On a slightly lighter note, one of my group members made a rather dumb move and said during reflection “God must be looking out for us this trip, I mean, I can’t count the number of times I almost died or at least got seriously injured” to which everyone nodded seriously. Being the group leader and a generally motherly type person I nearly fainted and then insisted that everyone stay inside and not touch anymore machetes, axes or power saws. Obviously nobody, including me, took that advice seriously. God must have had an eye out for us this week considering our worst injury was a shallow cut from a rusty nail that resulted in a 5 and a half hour wait for a simple tetanus shot in the ER. It could have been worse!

March 2 and 3, 2009

March 2nd, 2009 by emhest09

Well I was right about the snow storm, it was only about 2-3 inches but in Virginia that equals school cancellation for 2 days and a shut down of most local business. I heard on the news that it was “the worst storm since 2003”…it was a “dusting” in New England terms.

Luckily we were able to work on Monday and BOY did we work! I decided to volunteer to rip up a linoleum floor in the house next door to the church that had belonged to the old pastor of the church. Pastor Drew is looking to turn it into a museum and guest house and it needs a fair amount of work done. There were about 6 of us ripping up the floor and about 8 more people painting in the adjoining rooms. We put on our masks (there was mildew) picked up our chisels, hammers, kitchen knives and crowbars and went to work. By the end of the morning the linoleum was gone….and so was the entire kitchen floor. We worked so hard that Pastor Drew decided to rip up the entire floor and we got to use power tools and brute strength to finish the job. At one point I distinctly remember going at a shelf on the wall with a hammer and having Pastor Drew say “So what History test was THAT?”…we definitely had a chance to get out any pent up aggression.

On Tuesday, the snow was “so bad” that our lovely hosts decided to get us out of Waverly to see some of the surrounding area. We drove in the church’s bus through the rolling hills of Virginia and took the ferry over the James River to Williamsburg. It was interesting to see this area that was less than an hour away, Williamsburg was beautiful and I love boats so that was a plus. Something that my group talked about during reflection was that as we were driving down the winding streets and through malls and shopping complexes, we felt so cramped and realized how much we missed Waverly. It seems that this town is becoming our true home for this week, even though we have only been here a few days.


March 1, 2009

March 1st, 2009 by emhest09

I would rate this morning as one greatest of my life and that is saying a lot because we got up at 6AM after sleeping all night on army cots, had to put away all the cots before 7AM, and all this after driving ten hours the day before. That is all the complaining you will see for the rest of the entry though because today was SO amazing.

We had to get up so early so that we could set up the tables, eat breakfast and prepare for Sunday school at the church. We split into small groups and all of us got to work with a class of students, some were with babies, others with pre teens, some were with the adult class as well. I decided to work with the teen group along with Miriam, Marjorie, Brian and Pastor Drew. We met about 6 teens and went over a Bible passage with them about the tabernacle, a perfect connection with my Old Testament class! After Sunday school we went to service at the church which is Pentecostal. Most of us had been to Catholic Mass before and some had been to different services but no one in our group had seen anything like this before. The service opened with Jay, Pastor Drew’s son who is only a few years older than most of us, singing (in his amazing voice) a welcoming song that had everyone in the congregation singing and dancing. Now when I say singing and dancing, I mean SINGING AND DANCING. By the end, Jay would sing “What is the highest praise?” at the top of his lungs to which we would reply “HALLELUJAH!” and it was at this point that the group from Boston College arrived. If we were overwhelmed, they must have had it ten times worse but they were troopers and by the end they were singing with the rest of us. There were passages from the Bible and more songs (including one that a few members of the group were singing last night, they all got up on stage for an encore performance) and then Pastor Drew gave a sermon that made every volunteer feel like they were the only person in the room. He talked about his initial amazement that 30 plus students truly wanted to spend their Spring Break in Waverly as opposed to Florida or some tropical island. He then talked about our own personal journeys and that by coming here we showed that we have the potential for greatness. In probably the most poignant moment he looked at everyone and said “You have greatness in you” and then told us to turn to our neighbor and tell them the same thing. It was really moving; I often feel like in this day and age we focus on the negatives, we’re not smart enough, pretty enough, or wealthy enough, but we have to focus on what we are good at and how we can improve the world  with those skills. Having someone say “you have greatness in you” is a jump start for better things in my opinion and Pastor Drew’s sermon basically epitomized the Appalachia program for me.

Tomorrow is our first day of real work, hopefully the so called “snow storm” won’t be more than a few inches!