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Despite disability, woman finds her niche in recovery efforts

On disability because of a bad back and arthritis, plus having an allergy to paint and mold, Lorraine Agte of Shadle Park Presbyterian Church wondered how she could help when she went with seven from her church and eight from Northwood Presbyterian for a week in April to the Presbyterian Development Assistance (PDA) Volunteer Village in D’Iverville near Biloxi, Miss.

“I knew there would be something, because God can always use us, despite our limitations,” she said.

While others mucked out houses, did mold abatement, plumbing, painting, carpentry or drywall, Lorraine found her niche driving bleach and paint crews to work sites.  Others were not willing to drive in a strange city, especially with street signs taken out by the storm, but Lorraine found her way by counting streets on a map.

Lorraine has been on other mission trips—five times to Mexico for building projects, once on a medical mission to Dominican Republic and once to Samoa to dispense eyeglasses.  She also volunteers in the Caritas office, helps host families with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, delivers Meals on Wheels and volunteers in the church office. 

Lorraine said people in the Gulf Coast are impressed at how Christians from different denominations are helping with hurricane recovery.  

“Church attendance is up because people know help is coming from churches.  Their gratitude is overwhelming, because many waited many months for help,” she said.

One woman, for example, asked Lorraine if she was working with “the church by the water,” because the church had provided their trailer after their house was destroyed.

It was hard for a family member who was overweight and had bad knees to go up eight-inch steps to the trailer and to enter directly from the steps.  They needed six-inch steps and a landing.  She said her son would buy materials if volunteers would build it.  Lorraine took the request to the village, where volunteers built a landing and delivered it at no charge.

The PDA website, www.pcusa.org/ katrina/volunteer/index-villages.htm, describes projects and stories of volunteers and residents.  Lorraine added that people who cannot go to the Gulf area are donating cash to help.

For information, call 328-7457.