Trip To Biloxi A Success For NEWS
Trip To Biloxi A Success For NEWS
By Anna Hodge
On July 3, members of Newtown Ecumenical Workcamp Servants (NEWS) departed for Biloxi, Miss., to do their part in restoration work on houses destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.
The group was made up of 31 students and nine adult chaperones, all members of NEWS, a church mission group consisting of members affiliated with Newtown Congregational Church, Newtown United Methodist Church, Sacred Heart Church, or Saint Rose Church, and even a few unaffiliated members.
Fundraising for the trip to Biloxi began in September 2009 and lasted through May, according to Newtown Congregational Church Senior Pastor Matt Crebbin. With fundraising activities including an outdoor sleep-a-thon, a breakfast with a raffle, a carwash, a presidentâs drive, and an M&M drive, members of NEWS were kept busy preparing for their 16th annual workcamp trip.
According to Terry Ferris, co-coordinator for the details of the trip, the trip to Mississippi was the farthest distance that has been traveled in the four years she has been involved with the Newtown Congregational Church mission group.
âWeâve gone to workcamps in New York, Maryland, North Carolina, and going to Biloxi was the farthest trip that weâve taken. But everyone seemed to say it was the most rewarding,â said Mrs Ferris.
The mission was organized by Back Bay Mission, a community ministry of the United Church of Christ, located in Biloxi. The 87-year-old nonprofit agency serves for the Mississippi Gulf Coast in efforts to serve for the poor or disadvantaged.
âThey helped fuel us on our trip,â said Mrs Ferris. âEven before Hurricane Katrina took place, there was still work to be done in Biloxi, in the community there.â
Mrs Ferris was inspired to get involved with the workcamp after hearing about peopleâs experiences in church.
âMy daughter wanted to go, and I always found it very moving when they get in front of the church once theyâve come back and talk about what theyâve done,â Mrs Ferris said.
Although Mrs Ferris did not go on the trip to Mississippi, those who did were able to witness the fact that nearly five years after the devastation took place, there are still signs that people are in the state of recovery.
According to Rev Crebbin, the workcamp group formed and put up walls for a new home for a family.
âWe also helped paint and put siding on a house,â he said.
Rev Crebbin, who has been to Biloxi six times with youth and adult groups, said it is still an extremely powerful experience.
âYou see so many places: open lots that used to be houses, areas that used to be neighborhoods but now have houses missing. Five years after the hurricane, people are still trying to recover,â he said.
Workcamp is not only a chance for groups to see a type of devastation they have never seen before, it is an opportunity for them to meet people in trying circumstances.
âWe worshipped in a church and met many different people. It was great to see the youths come and learn about others in a different part of the country who are grateful,â Rev Crebbin said.
NCC has been part of a workcamp group since 1989. Rev Crebbin, who became the senior pastor for Newtownâs congregational church in July 2007, has been on 15 or 16 such excursions.
Meanwhile, for Newtown High School rising junior Jess Haitz, who is affiliated with St Rose Church, this was her first workcamp trip.
âIâve heard through my friends and sister that it was a good experience, since we get to help others,â Jess said.
According to Jess, there were many places where there were driveways that led to empty lots where there were once houses.
âThat was very moving,â she said about seeing the destruction.
The group returned to Newtown on July 11, after working in Biloxi for seven days.
For those who did not attend the trip, they were able to keep up with the workcamp group using the Newtown Ecumenical Workcamp Servantâs Facebook page. The groupâs wall is filled with pictures and videos from the trip.
The description of the group on Facebook is what really sums up the people who went to Biloxi: âNewtown students helping others in need.â
âAll of the youths that came from Newtown had positive attitudes, worked hard, and they cared for each otherâs groups. I was energized by just being with them for a week,â Reverend Crebbin said. âThatâs all we could really ask for.â
To learn more about the 2010 NEWS trip to Biloxi and to see photos and videos, visit their Facebook page.