While most swung a shovel over mid winter break, RuthAnn and Greg Baumbach swung hammers and carried roof shingles.
Part of a group organized by Norm Andrzejewski of St. Joseph the Worker church in Liverpool, the Baumbachs and approximately 40 other adults and 40 area high school students spent mid winter break in Gulfport, Mississippi. Helping residents of the hurricane ravaged area, they helped rebuild homes, hearts and lives.
"It was important to repair their houses, but it was just as important to rebuild their spirits," said RuthAnn, a long time Baldwinsville resident and mother of six grown children.
For a week, the group ate breakfast by 6:15 a.m. and didn't stop moving until dinner some 12 or more hours later. They slept in dorms rooms, many sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor. Quite the contrast to what many would deem the ideal get-away from our lake effect weather.
Baumbach exudes her joy at being able to share this experience.
"Each story was more touching and poignant than the next," she said. "To meet people who lost everything and until we arrived had no resources or help to rebuild their homes, was a wonderful learning experience."
A fifth grade teacher at St. Mary's Academy in Baldwinsville, RuthAnn happily spent her break in Mississippi. "My husband used one of his two weeks of vacation and it was well worth it. As soon as we learned of the trip, we both knew we wanted to serve the residents of Gulfport."
One of the most memorable stories the Baumbach's brought home from their tip, was the chance to join in the 79th birthday celebration of the woman whose roof they were repairing.
"A few of the high schools students got a cake. And in the middle of the destruction that still remains 17 months later, the neighborhood was all there celebrating, happy to have each other," RuthAnn said.
In addition to taking their generous hearts and spirits, the Baumbachs were proud that Baldwinsville was well represented in Gulfport. "We brought 17 cartons of books and school supplies, gift cards and cash donations from the students of St. Mary's Academy, the parishioners of St. Mary's, and the St. Mary's youth group. It truly demonstrates the generosity of our community," she said.
Andrzejewski is organizing additional trips to the area, and if you are interested in additional information or to make a donation, contact St. Joseph the Worker church in Liverpool.