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'Working for something that benefits someone else — that’s fulfilling'

Cary Ashby • Apr 13, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Fundraisers such as the upcoming Designer Purse Bingo allow Answering the Call Together to pay for local residents go on mission trips.

“These fundraisers are what allows us to take our volunteers free,” ACT Executive Director Dave Wallace said. “Without that, we can’t do that.”

The ACT Designer Purse Bingo will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Expo Building at the Huron County Fairgrounds. Call 419-706-8656 to purchase the $20 tickets. You must have a ticket or ID to enter the event. 

The bingo is an evening filled with 14 chances to win authentic designer purses, various gift baskets, 50/50 raffles and according to the flyer, is “pampering at its best.”

Norwalk resident Jen Hicks is one of the ACT volunteers who recently benefited from the generosity of the Christian-based organization.

“I’ve been wanting to go on a mission trip. I’ve been telling myself I was going to make it happen,” she said. 

Hicks, who attends the local campus for The Chapel, took the first step by going to an informational meeting about a trip to Clendenin, W.Va. Ultimately, 43 volunteers ranging in age from 17 to 77 returned to the town that had been ravaged by a flood. Thirty-five of the volunteers were local residents who went on the Feb. 27 through March 4 trip.

“We had volunteers from Minnesota, Maryland, Indiana and our local, area volunteers,” Wallace said.

Hicks didn’t know what to expect from her experience. Having traveled to West Virginia with another volunteer, she said she was excited to arrive safely, found the other workers “very welcoming” and soon bonded.

“It was like we were old friends,” Hicks added.

Cynthia Kniffin, of rural Norwalk, was returning to Clendenin after the October mission trip. Several Norwalk High School students who also volunteered have said the experience gave them a new perspective.

“Very little had happened since I was there (in October). There was a great deal of debris in many places,” Kniffin said.

The volunteers witnessed people who have been forced to live in sheds or tents and use the bathroom outside because of their destroyed homes.

“I don’t think they want to be seen as helpless or hopeless, but their living situation is close to impossible,” Kniffin said.

But despite their living conditions, the Clendenin residents were gracious and hospitable.

“The homeowners were very happy to meet with us,” Kniffin said.

Hicks and Kniffin enjoyed the camaraderie among the volunteers. They worked with ACT contractors who teach their team members the skilled labor. Wallace praises the contractors for their “gift of patience and skill.”

“The camaraderie is great. I worked with two ladies from Maryland. We had a great time,” said Kniffin, who learned a lot. “I’m good at the screwdriver (jobs) or the dry wall.”

Hicks also learned new skills such as grouting and installing electrical boxes. She applied drywall at a church in Clendenin. By the end of the week, Hicks said she felt like an expert in everything except dropped ceilings.

“I’m a great painter now,” she added.

The mission trip made a large emotional impact on her.

“Ten times a day they told you much they appreciated you,” Hicks said, referring to the local residents. “They were very grateful.”

For Wallace, going on an ACT mission trip isn’t about the work.

“It’s about the people. It’s about the people we serve in Clendenin. It’s about our volunteers too,” the ACT executive director said.

Wallace hopes anybody who volunteers for ACT will be able to share their experiences.

Kniffin agrees, emphasizing the bond she has with other volunteers.

“Working together develops closer relationships than socializing together. Working for something that benefits someone else — that’s fulfilling; it’s just rewarding,” she said.

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