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The wall of signatures and blessings. Freida Platts cooking. Meals, jokes, and prayers with Pastor Roy Platt, at the Jennings Church of Christ. All the ways the church and the whole community of Jennings, Louisiana, opened their hearts to MDS volunteers.

And the volunteers came: 1,044 of them served in Jennings, for a collective 11,068 days spent restoring hope to 136 households. They helped the community recover from hurricanes Laura and Delta, which struck in 2020, and an ice storm that came after that.

As the MDS project in Jennings closes on March 28—Good Friday—the day brings a bittersweet feeling to longtime volunteers and to the community itself.


The wall of blessings

Pastor Roy Platt of the Jennings Church of Christ recalled when MDS made the happy discovery that his church could meet the need for housing volunteers.

That news, prayed for by many in our church, was like winning the Super Bowl,” Platt remembered. We were so excited and thankful.”

That was back in October 2020. To every volunteer who came through the Jennings Church of Christ, Platt said: You have to sign the signature wall.”

Now that MDS is moving out, volunteers helped the church move the sheetrock—with all its writings, Bible verses, signatures, cartoons, and quotes—to a permanent place as the church’s gymnasium walls.


Who could forget the jambalaya!

Platts wife, Freida, known for giving out pots of jambalaya, brought traditional Louisiana cooking to volunteers whod never seen a crawfish.

Stephan and Christa Barth, who served for many months in Jennings three different times, said Freida could simply make things happen.

You had to be careful what you asked, because I once mentioned to Freida I was looking for another couch,” joked Stephan. That same day, a couch appeared in the open space area!”

Pastor Roy crafted an MDS logo out of foam, painted it signature MDS blue, and displayed it in the church. I watched him make it. He put a lot of effort into that,” said Stephan.


Not forgotten

Christa recalled how people in Jennings were so thankful that somebody listened to them.

People like Linda Johnson, who lives in the small enclave of Roanoke on the outskirts of Jennings.

MDS volunteers installed a new roof and made other repairs on the home she shares with her 88-year-old mother.

We were feeling like the forgotten community. But not anymore,” she said.

As the last four houses were dedicated in southwest Louisiana this week, it was an emotional time for volunteer and community members alike.

Phil Helmuth, MDS project coordinator, reflected on the incredible community support MDS received from local mayors, long-term recovery officials, churches, and of course the homeowners.

Part of the reason that Jennings is a place that volunteers love to come, is because there is a community that surrounds the volunteers,” he said.

The wall of signatures and blessings will remain as a reminder of all who volunteered. It will be a memory forever, probably,” said Helmuth.


Parting gifts that last forever

As a parting gift, MDS gave Pastor Roy a two-by-one-foot framed panel of drywall—full of signatures—that wouldnt fit in the gym. He can hang it in his office,” said Helmuth.

Platt gave MDS a large key—about a foot long—that he said was a key to the membership of the church.”

As he drove through the town of Welsh—on the outskirts of Jennings—earlier this week, Helmuth passed the first new house volunteers built, and the homeowner was out on the front porch. I could not drive by without stopping—she recognized my truck.”

Helmuth—who calculated that MDS volunteers brought about $3.7 million worth of labor toward new and repaired homes to the area—also observed how the Jennings community became part of the MDS family.

Its hard to say goodbye to that family, acknowledged Stephan Barth.

We will miss them for sure. But I dont think the book is written,” he said. Maybe just the chapter is written—you never know.”

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