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Group from St. Louis pitching in to help area

Three adults and nine teenagers from the Peace Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Mo., are spending a week in Southern Ohio, doing work that may have otherwise been left undone.

They are the latest group of volunteers brought to this area by VOAD -- Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.

VOAD is comprised of 81 non-profit organizations that have pledged to support Lawrence County when there is a disaster. The first volunteers visited the area in May to help with clean up after February's ice storm and spring flash flooding.

The group visiting this week are honing their carpentry and masonry skills. Under the guidance of the adults, the young people, aged 13-17, are learning to build porches and handicapped ramps and put up siding. What they may have initially lacked in knowledge is compensated for by sheer enthusiasm.

"I haven't done this before and I wanted to try this," Kristin Woehr said. "I have been to Mexico (on mission trips) twice."

"I'm learning to build a porch," Sydney Bryan said.

"I know how to make post holes," Amanda Hanewinkel said. And she demonstrated: "You put it (the post hole digger) in the ground and then you wiggle, wiggle, wiggle."

The young people will be in the area for a week. They are sleeping on air mattresses on the floor at St. Paul Lutheran Church at night. On Tuesday they worked with the St. Paul congregation in a clothing giveaway for the needy.

The volunteers are coordinating their efforts through the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency.

"It's hard to express with words what this means to us," Lawrence County 911/EMA Director Don Mootz said. I'm thankful for people who care."

Mary Woodward, director of Southeast Ohio Ministries for Lutheran Social Services (LSS), first approached local officials in March about bringing VOAD volunteers to Lawrence County to help people with long-term disaster recovery efforts.

"We reinforce local resources," Woodward said. "Our goal is to bring in as much in resources from outside areas as possible."

Peace Lutheran Church undertakes approximately a half a dozen mission trips each year. This is the church's third trip to Ohio. Counselor Gary Callies said the mission to southern Ohio has been more than a chance to sharpen carpentry skills. It has been an all-around education about the importance of people helping people.

"It's definitely been an eye opener. It's a reality check a lot of people need to have," counselor Callies said.