A ‘symphony’ of builders support disaster victims

A ‘symphony’ of builders support disaster victims

While symphonies usually consist of woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings, a recent symphony took place that featured the sounds of drills, hammers and the sounds of people helping people.

One of the unique fallacies about the Amish community is that it tends to focus solely on taking care of its own.

One recent effort at Keim Lumber Friday, Oct. 14 dispels that theory.

In a combined effort between Mennonite Disaster Service and Disaster Aid Ohio, Keim opened its facility to those organizations to build nine prefabricated homes, seven of which will eventually be erected in Dayton to families who were displaced by a tornado in 2019, two of them going to West Virginia to families whose homes were destroyed by flood and fire.

A huge tent was erected in Keim’s parking lot, where underneath dozens of volunteers were busy hammering, nailing and assembling pieces of the walls. Outside the walls were being erected and prepared for shipping. Those who stopped by to watch were amazed at how the progress seemed to take place with few words being spoken, as through each person and team knew exactly what needed to take place.

Gideon Yoder, a member of Disaster Aid Ohio, was the foreman who helped guide the many volunteers through the process of constructing the prefabricated walls that will soon be new homes for many families hit hard by natural disasters in West Virginia and Dayton, Ohio.

Disaster Aid Ohio has been busy the past couple of years, teaming up with MDS in building homes in Texas and West Virginia.

“We want to go where there is a need,” Yoder said. “All of these people are volunteers who bring various skills to the effort. Some work in furniture businesses, others are farmers and many other areas of employment, but they all have the same desire to help others in need and all the work is done in unity for God’s glory. Not one of these people care to take any credit for any of this.”

Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Service, said watching. The teamwork and dedication of the volunteers was inspiring and uplifting.

“It’s a real hands-on, practical way to show our love for our neighbors who had misfortune,” King said. “Last week I was in the California wildfires and saw the endless destruction there.”

He said not everyone can go the various places where destruction and disasters take place, but they can work close to home to find ways to build hope.

“It all comes together in a beautiful way, and it is making a tremendous difference,” King said. “We have unskilled people show up wanting to give. Right now in the society we live in, there is a dearth of service, and I think this is really striking a nerve. People can give a day and these volunteers are going at it.”

King said MDS needed a new office, and Keim owner Bill Keim and he had known each other for many years. He said when it came time to build a new office in Pennsylvania for MDS, Keim donated all the lumber for them to build, so King wasn’t surprised when Keim became the home for this project.

King has also been friends with Jim Schmucker, the CEO at Keim, and King said Schmucker’s dream has always been to be available to meeting MDS’s needs. King said MDS has between 6,000 and 7,000 volunteers each year, and they are currently in 21 different locations responding to disasters.

Wendy Beaver, West Virginia case manager for MDS, was on hand to watch the proceedings. She said the two homes coming her ay would be erected in and near Clendening, W. Va., replacing homes lost to flooding.

One larger family whose home was rebuilt after a flood only to be destroyed by fire two years ago, is currently living in a tiny trailer.

Beaver originally was connected to MDS through bridge building projects, and recently moved into the rebuilding of homes. She said the case management issues she faces is figuring out what families need to thrive. She said families seeking aid often help with a build, donate to the cause of purchase material to become invested.

She noted that the foundations for the two homes are already in place, and the homes themselves should begin to be placed through the latter half of October.

“We anticipate that the move-in date for these families will be the first of January,” Beaver said. In watching the beehive of activity taking place and seeing Keim Lumber donate to the project and noting that the Holmes County community was also in the process of making furniture for the homes, she was overjoyed for the incredible blessing the volunteers are to these families in need.

“The ministry taking place here by all of these caring people is amazing,” Beaver said. “Watching these people work is like a little symphony. They don’t say a word, they just won do their own part, building and moving walls and making this happen. It’s a huge blessing to know people care like this about people they will never meet.”

While symphonies are usually created to please people aurally, the sweet music rising from the Keim parking lot in this performance was joyful in unique ways that will be much more long-lasting.