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A Jennings, LA volunteer working on demolition.A Jennings, LA volunteer working on demolition.

Closing down the longstanding MDS response in Jennings, Louisiana, wasn’t easy. MDS Project Director Rollin Ulrich had the tough job—both logistically and emotionally—of moving MDS volunteers and equipment out of the Jennings Church of Christ, which had served as the base since October 2020.

Ulrich had closed a project before—but this one was different, in part because MDS had built temporary dormitory-style rooms in the church that had to come down, and the beloved wall of signatures”—full of artwork and the names of volunteers—had to be installed as the new walls of the church gymnasium.

We spent 197 hours closing that gym down,” said Ulrich. If you transfer that to a dollar amount, it was worth close to $7,000 to renovate that gym.”

This was all done by volunteers—and was very labor-intensive.

You had to put up studding, and you had to line up the panels because, if people wrote across two sheets, you couldn’t separate that,” he said. We rearranged the panels a couple times but some panels were up and down four, five, six times.”

And the further along the takedown went, the more emotional people got.

I saw Pastor Roy Platt shed tears,” said Ulrich. That church lent MDS that space instead of MDS renting that space.”

This meant tremendous savings for MDS, as well as a close bond between volunteers and the church.

With a signed panel left over, MDS presented it to Platt. It read Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

By the time Ulrich walked out the door for the final time, he felt like MDS was leaving—but not forever. The Jennings Church of Christ presented MDS with a key to the church,” a large symbolic decorative key that declared everyone who volunteered at Christ Church of Jennings was an honorary member of the church.

MDS was privileged to be a part of that community,” said Ulrich. We walked out of there feeling good about what we have done.”

He acknowledged that the experience of closing the Jennings response was bittersweet. “There was joy and sadness—but we knew we had not abandoned the community,” he said. We will always be back and be able to find our name on the wall.”

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