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For Darlene and Lynn Miller of Arvada, Co., the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Recreational Vehicle (RV) program is a great way to meet new people and make new friends.

“I like meeting new people,” said Darlene, 71, noting they have served with MDS in Texas, South Carolina and Florida prior to coming to Welsh, La. for a month. “I also like seeing new places and learning about different cultures.”

Darlene, a retired social worker, and her husband, Lynn, 73, who worked in non-profit healthcare management for his career, are living in their 17-foot Casita trailer while they work with other volunteers to repair the home of a single father with a young son whose house was badly damaged by hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020.

“We like helping people get back into their homes after a disaster,” said Lynn, noting they have also served with MDS in Texas, South Carolina and Florida. “It’s great to be able to provide hope for others.”

Getting out of the snow and cold in wintertime is also a good thing, the couple agrees. “It’s nice to be in a warmer place in the winter,” said Darlene.

They could just take a regular vacation, they acknowledge. “But we aren’t sit on the beach people,” she said. “We like the ocean, but not to spend all our time there.”

In addition to the camaraderie of working with others, they enjoy doing the repair work and learning new skills. At the same time, the more relaxed pace of the RV program suits them, working four days a week, six hours a day, and only on lighter repair jobs.

“With Friday off, we can take care of any sore muscles,” laughed Lynn.

It’s also nice for them to see a project through to completion; since RV volunteers typically work on one house at a time for a longer time, they get to see it through from start to finish— something regular weekly volunteers rarely get to see.

“It’s a blessing to go to the dedication of the house, to be with the happy homeowners, knowing the house is better than it was before,” said Darlene.

They also enjoy keeping up with the friends they make in the RV program. “We stay in touch, update each other on what’s happening in our lives,” said Lynn.

For the Millers, members of the Glennon Heights Mennonite Church, service also grows out of their Christian faith. “It’s about word and deed,” said Lynn. “We need to think of those who have less and do something to help them.”

“Those of us who have been blessed can give our time and talents,” said Darlene, adding “Jesus told us this is the way to live our lives as his followers.”

The MDS RV program is designed for older adults who want to serve in the southern U.S. during the winter. More laid-back in nature than traditional projects, volunteers work four days a week, six hours a day, usually on lighter repair projects. The term of service is one month or more. Hookups are provided in local campgrounds.

For more information about the MDS RV program, visit https://mdsorg.wpenginepowered.com/rv-volunteer

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications


Click here to view “Faces of MDS RV program in Louisiana”

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