April 12, 2023
“We feel called to do this”
Sherry and Ed Epp serving in Grand Isle, La. with MDS RV program
One thing Sherry and Ed Epp of Independence, Kansas like about the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Recreational Vehicle (RV) program is being with other volunteers and making new friends.
“The camaraderie is absolutely wonderful,” said Sherry, 71.
Ed, 73, agreed. “It’s great to be with like minded people who value service the same way you do,” he said. “There’s something nice about being around people like that.”
The Epps are in Grande Isle, Louisiana, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, doing repair work on homes after Hurricane Ida which struck in 2021. Their home-away-from-home is 33-and-a- half-foot Chaparral trailer.
Having that home is one of the other things they appreciate about the RV program. “It’s nice to have our own space after a day of work,” said Sherry, retired from a career in education.
“It’s a time to clean up, eat what we want and be by ourselves for a bit,” she added, noting they also do potlucks with other volunteers, along with outings like going to restaurants and local bookstores.
This is the second time the couple has served with the RV program—the other location was in Florida. “We really enjoy being together with others,” said Ed, a retired veterinarian. “We’re like a family.”
As for the work, “it’s not too hard,” Sherry said, noting they like the more relaxed pace of the RV program—volunteers work four days a week, six hours a day on lighter repair jobs.
“It suits our age and energy,” added Ed.
They also appreciate learning new skills. “The leaders are very helpful, showing us how to do things,” Sherry said. “It’s a very congenial work environment.”
It’s also a way to use their gifts, including what Ed called the “gift of service. We feel called to do this.”
“It’s designed for us retired folks,” he said, noting they aren’t asked to do things like work on roofs.
For the two—Ed attends the First Church of the Nazarene and Sherry is a member at First United Methodist Church, both in Independence—what’s most gratifying is “seeing people get back home,” said Sherry.
Added Ed: “That’s the most important thing, seeing people get their homes back. That’s why we do it.”
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