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“Like a family.”

That’s how Pamela Haskin of Duncannon, Pa. describes what it’s like to be a part of the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Recreational Vehicle (RV) program in Welsh, La.

“I’ve made friends for life,” said Pamela, 69, who is serving with MDS with her husband, Steve, 73.

The Haskins—she is retired from working at a recycling brokerage, he worked in information technology for a career—are in Welsh repairing homes damaged by hurricanes Laura and Delta, which struck the state within six weeks of each other in late summer, early fall 2020.

Hurricane Laura made landfall as a category 4 hurricane, with peak winds of 150 mph/241 km. Many homeowners had not returned home yet from evacuating from Laura when Delta hit, causing additional damage.

The Haskins, members of the Central Baptist Church in Millerstown, Pa., were attracted to the RV program by its more laid-back nature. Designed for older adults, volunteers work four days a week, six hours a day, usually on lighter repair projects.

The term of service is one month or more and the service locations are usually in the southern U.S. Hookups are provided in local campgrounds.

They also found it an appealing way to fill in the gap when the pandemic took away their music ministry.

“Our goal was to retire and play music in retirement and personal care homes,” said Pamela, noting she plays acoustic guitar and Steve plays electric bass. “But the pandemic shut that all down.”

Still wanting to do something for others, they signed up for the RV program in 2020 and have spent time in Texas and Florida.

“We enjoy meeting new people, seeing new places and learning about different parts of the country,” said Steve.

When not at the work site, they relax in their 33-foot Forest River Class C Solera motorhome. “We like having our own space at the end of the workday,” said Pamela.

The couple are serving for six months, from October to the end of March. At the work site they do various jobs such as laying floors, drywall, mudding, sanding, painting and electrical.

“It keeps me healthy and active,” said Pamela.

For Steve, who designed and built their home, it’s also a way to use his skills. “I did construction and electrical work,” he said, adding “I had some skills MDS could use.”

For him, people at the RV project are “like an extended family. It’s a really good environment. We stay in touch after we go back home, sharing news and family updates.”

For both, service with the RV program is a way to live out their faith. “It feels like we are in the will of God, doing exactly what he called us to do,” said Steve.

Plus, it’s a way to escape the winter back home and do something meaningful, said Pamela. “I don’t want to sit and look out the window all day,” she said. “And I’d go crazy sitting on a beach.”

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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