Kids help hurricane victims |

Kids help hurricane victims

Special to the Daily/Erik WilliamsKim Gillie used a chainsaw to cut up fallen trees in a homeowner's yard near Clewiston, Fla., as part of a local mission trip. Jeff Layman, background, supervised.

VAIL ” It was hot, it was humid and there was a lot of work to be done.

But the young people who went on Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church’s mission trip apparently had no problem doing five days of manual labor to help people recover from hurricanes that had ravaged the area two years ago.

“You look at the work that we did, and we’re all like, ‘This feels so good because you’re helping people that you don’t know but who need it,'” said Kelly VanHee, a 16-year-old Wolcott resident who went on the trip.

Twenty-two local youths and four parents went on the trip last week to Clewiston, Fla., a farming community on Lake Okeechobee in South Florida to help residents recover from hurricanes Dennis and Wilma, which hit the area in 2005. Erik Williams, youth pastor at the church, led the trip.

“The damage is still pretty obvious from hurricanes two years ago, which is pretty amazing,” Williams said.

They cleared brush, chain-sawed fallen trees and moved logs in heat that was close to 100 degrees ” not to mention Florida’s customary humidity.

“Not something that all these kids from Vail are used to,” Williams said. “All of the people were blown away when we said it snowed last week (in Vail).”

They also demolished a damaged trailer and did some drywall work in another home. They ended up helping six different families in five days of work.

Some of the kids said it was eye-opening to leave the relatively affluent Eagle County and go to an area where there was so much assistance required.

“People just forget,” VanHee said. “They get caught up in their daily lives and they forget that even in the United States, in Clewiston, Fla., people are in need.”

Travis Landauer, a recent Battle Mountain High School graduate, echoed VanHee. On previous mission trips, he had gone to Mexico to build homes.

“Going to a different country you step over a boundary and it’s something completely different,” Landauer said. “But you see some of the same stuff here, and that’s really crazy to see.”

The kids had a chance to have some fun, too. They spent a couple of days at the beach after they were finished with their five days of work. They also visited an alligator farm.

VanHee said she’d do again if she has the chance. The group bonded really well and everyone was positi, she said.

“It was fun to be with everyone,” she said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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