Volunteers give hope to Fla. resident, church during mission trip

Cary Ashby • Mar 24, 2018 at 10:00 PM

Norwalk residents Judy Eckler and Lorri Shane recently went on their first mission trips.

About 30 volunteers, ranging in age from 17 to 73, went to Lehigh Acres, Fla. to work on construction projects. From Feb. 26 through March 2, one crew put a new roof on a Nazarene church, which was damaged by Hurricane Irma, while another rebuilt a man’s home which burned down in wild fires from April 2017.

“They put up a striking, standing seam on (the church),” said Eckler, who at 73 was the oldest volunteer with Answering the Call Together, Inc. (ACT). “It will last forever.”

Eckler had worked in the insurance field for 32 years befor retiring. She ran Eckler Insurance Co. in Sandusky for 11 years.

“I’ve always wanted to go on a mission trip,” said Eckler, who despite her age may have had the highest energy level of any of the ACT volunteers. “The other thing is I like adventures.”

She and Shane worked on the house. Eckler started out sorting lumber, then was sawing and helped make sure other workers had the proper tools.

“We were sawing and doing lots of hammering,” she said.

By the time the volunteers were done, Elvis O’Neill’s new two-bedroom, 900-square foot house had its four outside walls up, all the interior walls were done and about 75 percent of the electrical work was installed.

“Elvis couldn’t believe that in five days prior there was nothing there,” ACT Director Dave Wallace said. “Elvis could see home was there and there was hope.”

Eckler, who says she doesn’t like to sit still, said O’Neill was very appreciative and “now he has hope.”

The origin of the ACT mission trip to Florida came through a connection during the work in Clendenin, W.Va.

Mike Shen was the county project coordinator who later was called as pastor at the Lehigh Acres Church of the Nazarene. He saw a Facebook post about ACT bringing food and supplies to victims of Hurricane Irma.

“It’s funny how these little things connect,” Wallace said. “That set the foundation for us to do this trip.”

Being a recovering alcoholic and since helping people is part of her recovery process, Shane said she wanted to broaden her horizons by going on a mission trip.

“I was out of my comfort zone. It was fear of the unknown,” added the Norwalk woman, the office coordinator at First Presbyterian Church in Norwalk.

While the ACT volunteers were working on O’Neill’s house, he informed them he hadn’t been to church in about 45 years. His attempts to get local help after his house burned down were fruitless.

“He just couldn’t believe people would come that far to help him,” Shane said, referring to ACT volunteers from Ohio, West Virginia and Minnesota.

Starting the mission trip with a “fear of the unknown,” she said she “came home with a high” — a natural one from helping others.

“It got me excited to do the next one,” Shane said.

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