In a few weeks, when other kids are heading to beaches, ski slopes and amusement parks for spring break, a group of local children – and their parents – will be heading to the mission fields of coastal Louisiana.
Five families, all part of the Hearts In Bloom homeschooling co-op in Jacksonville, are participating in Eight Days of Hope, a mission project designed to help restore homes, and hope, to victims of Hurricane Isaac in LaPlace, La.
"We wanted to help people who lost their houses," said Abigail Powers, 9.
The Powers family, matriarch Leah and father David, along with Nicolette, 16, David, 14, Abigail, 9, Hannah, 7, Josiah, 5, Adinojah, 3-going-on13, and baby Daniel, 7 months, will load up a trailer the second week in March and caravan to La Place. They will be accompanied by Shirley Crowe and son Joshua, 12; the Milstead family, mom Lisa and children Hannah, Ryan, Drew and Claire; the Dodd family, mom Shannon, dad Brian, children Aron, Allen and Aiden; and another Powers family, relatives of the first.
Although this is the first mission trip this group has gone on, they know other area families who have participated. Eight Days of Hope, a non-profit which "ministers Christ's love and mercy to those whose homes and lives have been damaged by disaster," is working with St. John the Baptist Parish Disaster Recovery Center in LaPlace. This is the tenth project for Eight Days of Hope, which was conceived out of a desire to help in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans. The Powers heard about the group, and the trip, on American Family Radio.
"I'm glad I'm going to help these people," said Abigail, who, at 9, was just one of the precocious, articulate, well-mannered and respectful Powers children. "God wants us to help our neighbors."
Seven-year-old Hannah Powers described how she felt "sad" when she heard about the destruction in LaPlace. She said her family has been praying for the residents of the hurricane-battered city.
The Crowe family will also be making their first trek to support Eight Days of Hope.
"It gives us an opportunity to go and be part of something bigger than ourselves," she ex-plained. "We never know when tragedy is going to strike at home."
Her son, 12-year-old Josiah, is excited about the trip, as is her 4-year-old granddaughter, who won't be able to go this year.
The families, and other volunteers, will participate in building, clean-up and support projects.
"I'll be roofing," said 16-year-old Nicolette Powers. She'll be working alongside dad and brother, both Davids.
The days start about 6 a.m. with breakfast, explained Leah Powers. There will be about 40 houses to re-roof, repair plumbing and update and replace electrical work.
"It's a lot of manual labor," she said, adding that husband David's forte is building projects. The families will also be picking up trash around the community, preparing meals for the volunteers and helping out in the church, according to Abigail.
"And we get to go in tent," she said, excitedly. "That's going to be fun."
The people they'll be helping, Leah said, are the ones who often fall through the cracks, without the means to repair their homes themselves, but often lacking in the necessary insurance or not qualifying for governmental relief.
"It's the worst spot to be in," she said.
All the families are holding fundraisers to help fund the $300 trip.
Leah Powers is making and selling soaps in all varieties from blueberry to cinnamon spice to lavender.
The group as a whole is also holding a venison chili lunch on March 1. For $8, you get venison chili, Fritos, toppings, soda and dessert.
For more information, or to order lunch on March 1, please contact Leah Powers, 903-795-3540.