Group of Alpena residents to head out on mission trip

Forty-one youth and adults from the Alpena area head out Sunday on a mission trip to Mayflower, Ark., a town devastated in April by a tornado. The group, coordinated locally by Marsha Hoppe and Vicki Densdaedt, is going as part of the National Relief Network.

While in Mayflower, the volunteers expect to do work on private homes damaged during the tornado. This could entail replacing roofs, gutting houses and cleaning up debris.

“It’s a life-exchanging experience for the families who go,” said Hoppe, who has been closely involved with the Alpena Catholic community. “One unique aspect is that we have families who go and experience it together.”

Hoppe and other volunteers first began working with the National Relief Network eight years ago following Hurricane Katrina. A year after that disaster, a group from Alpena traveled south to lend a hand with rebuilding efforts. Hoppe still remembers the experience vividly.

“It had been a year when we drove into the area,” she said. “We went into a house and everything in it was shifted to a different place and had been sitting there for a year. We had to take everything out, and they were personal items their photos, their things. If we found one thing that was salvageable we rejoiced. Just to know that these people will never see their things again makes you appreciate every little bit you have because you never know.”

After the Hurricane Katrina mission trip, volunteers began making similar trips to other needy areas across the country every two years. Another mission trip was planned to Parkersburg, Iowa after an F5 tornado hit that town. More recent mission trips took volunteers to Nashville, Tenn., following severe flooding there, and to Henryville, Ind., site of another devastating tornado.

This year’s trip will involve a 16-hour bus ride. Hoppe appreciates all that the National Relief Network does to make their trip easier.

“The neat thing about this program is they pick us up by bus, find us a place to stay, feed us and provide us with all the supplies needed to do the job,” she said. “It’s not like we are going out there on our own.”

The group will return to Alpena on June 28.