October 25, 2021
From early response to the long haul, MDS volunteer finds deep sense of purpose
Sixty-seven-year-old Pamela Haskin was sweeping, cleaning, and sweating up a storm inside a hurricane-damaged home in LaPlace, Louisiana. She’d traveled from her home in western Pennsylvania several days before, but still seemed a little surprised that she ended up on the Gulf Coast helping Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) with early hurricane response.
Normally, Haskin and her husband, Steve, volunteer with the MDS RV Program, an effort in which four to six family groups tow or drive their own RVs to an MDS project for four weeks or more.
Haskin was hoping to join the MDS RV Program in Rockport, Texas, in September to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. But that project start was delayed because of a high rate of COVID-19 cases, and MDS needed volunteers for early response to Hurricane Ida in Louisiana.
Pamela and her husband, Steve, had to quickly switch gears, setting up their RV in the parking lot of the Williams Boulevard Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana, where MDS volunteers are based.
The Haskins will be there for the whole month of October.
“All we do is keep going,” she grinned, quickly adding that she is still hoping to go to Rockport later this fall.
With MDS project schedules in flux because of COVID-19, Haskin has become the kind of volunteer MDS treasures: one that’s flexible, can go where needed, and is willing to help with early response as well as long-term recovery.
“The MDS RV Program!” she said. “It’s more relaxed, and you get to relate more to the homeowners.”
— Pamela Haskins, MDS RV Volunteer
Make no mistake, though, about Haskin’s first volunteer love: “The MDS RV Program!” she said. “It’s more relaxed, and you get to relate more to the homeowners.”
As part of the early response phase in Louisiana, Haskin is serving as an office manager, a driver, and a muck remover whenever she can, often moving from house to house in one day.
On the RV worksites, things are a bit more laid back, she said. “Your other RVers are like family,” she said, “but it’s nice to have the privacy when you want it, too!”
Because she has food allergies, Haskin also values the opportunity to cook her own food. But most of all, she treasures the chance to meet the people she’s helping. “That’s MDS to me—interacting with people and changing their lives and your own life in the process.”
She and her husband enjoy camping, and they encourage other campers to consider the MDS RV Program. “We have a whole envelope of brochures, and if someone shows any interest at all, we tell them to give it a try.”
Sometimes people who are retired don’t realize how much they can do for others, Haskin added. “I don’t think people realize the potential of what they can do,” she said. “It gives your life purpose.”