by Jayme Soyak
The week of the June 24th, 90 high school students from Ridgefield and 38 leaders went to Orland, Maine, for the H.O.M.E. Trip sponsored by the First Congregational Church. Among the leaders were Dan and Barbara Reidy, who have organized this mission trip for more than 20 years.
The group drove the eight hours to the H.O.M.E. campus in 12 vans. Staying in tents set up in grassy fields, we all learned to appreciate what we have and see how important what we are doing really is. The nice porta-potties made everyone very thankful for the times we could use the local elementary school bathrooms and showers.
H.O.M.E. stands for Homeworkers Organized for More Employment. The mission is to aid in getting people in need back on their feet. The community decides what is needed to be done by our team, whether it be painting the church or rebuilding an entire home. Some jobs require repair to what's already there, some need additions to accommodate the new families, and some require complete demolition. Whether it's making a barn prettier or making a home safe and stable, every one there is so thankful for what we are able to accomplished within a week.
In addition to the work that is done for the people at the H.O.M.E. Co-op during the week the group is there, the few months prior to the trip are spent collecting canned goods for their food pantry. This year our FCC group transported many large containers full of food items. One team spent the first day loading up their pantry with all the food that was brought; it was filled to the top. Toward the middle of the week, it was noticed that the pantry was almost empty. Amazingly, Barb Reidy discovered more canned goods that we had missed when we first unloaded. With all the rain it had gotten covered and forgotten. So we were able to refill the pantry again.
This year was particularly rainy, drenching tents and threatening to cancel work days, but that didn’t put a damper on the spirit of everyone. It was inspiring and uplifting to see the members of FCC still eager to work after the lack of sleep and soaking conditions. One leader commented, "I was pretty amazed because [the kids] toughed it out in the situation, it got worse but they toughened up some more. We solved the wet problems but more popped up and we solved them. Even with no sleep they worked all day the next day. They knew what they had to do."
Each year, toward the end of the week there is a Give Back Day. This is when the group expresses appreciation to our hosts by spending the day working on jobs to improve the local schools and the church. In addition, FCC holds a community dinner when we share a meal with l ocal families and really get to know the people of Orland. Leaders and youth enjoy talking to the members of the community and see who is on the receiving side of what we are doing.
One leader explained his motivation for the H.O.M.E. Trip, "I do it to help the kids and also the people up there, to improve their lives and give them a little hope." Another leader said, "I love being with the kids and watching them find out what they can do. I enjoy giving back a little bit and doing all that I can do for them."
The group returned to Ridgefield tired but grateful for the opportunity to serve at H.O.M.E., which is one of our church's most important mission partners.