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Volunteers begin building ‘MD House’

Network of 13 churches collaborate to build new home for Hurricane Katrina survivors.


Vena Trosclair and her sons who were left homeless after Hurricane Katrina devastated their neighborhood four years ago are finally close to getting a real home again thanks to a group of churches in Maryland.

After the 2005 hurricane, emergency responders told Trosclair to stay out of the home because it was too dangerous to enter and beyond repair. FEMA paid for the home to be torn down. But that left the Trosclair family without a home and no money to build a new one.

Vena and her three youngest sons moved into a FEMA trailer until they received a cottage from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) where they are still living.

Vena is a single mother of four. Two of her sons have serious medical conditions. One of the boys had brain cancer and has recently undergone chemotherapy. Another has daily seizures.

Faith-based disaster response organizations such as Mennonite Disaster Service that first focused on repaired homes, now are building new homes from the ground up. Until recently, mission teams from local churches primarily worked on repairs and joined teams sponsored by disaster response organizations to build new homes for survivors of Gulf Coast hurricanes.

However, now a growing number of churches are providing the organization, volunteers and financial support to build homes on their own. Last year, a group of Vermont churches built what has become known as the “Vermont House,” and this year a coalition of Maryland churches is currently in the process of building the “Maryland House.”

Inspired by the Vermont House, a mission team from Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Highland, MD, decided last year they had the skills and could raise the money that would be needed to build a Maryland version.

“We started by collecting money at Mt. Zion, then we went out to other churches gradually, talked to a number of other churches,” said Rod Barr, Outreach Coordinator from Mt. Zion UMC.

They started from scratch, fundraising money with a goal of $50,000. Eventually Mt. Zion partnered with 13 other churches to raise the money and volunteers needed for the project.

Members of one of the churches that became a partner, Severna Park United Methodist Church, said they were impressed by the concept when Mt. Zion members made a presentation at their church.

“We made a commitment to provide $10,000 and volunteers for a week on the spot,” says Sue Gerberich, team leader for the Maryland Project with Severna Park.

Construction on the house began last week and is already under roof. The 70 volunteers are going in groups of 16 to 20. Most groups are staying for one week.

The goal is to have the house complete in five weeks. The coordinators of the project realize how lucky they are that that many of the volunteers are skilled workmen.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to go down, start a house from scratch and actually finish the house and see it turned over to the homeowner,” said Barr before leaving for MS last week.

But the volunteers are not the only ones looking forward. The Trosclairs are looking forward to giving up their “temporary” cottage and moving into the first Maryland House.

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