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Ten students from Valparaiso University were in Griffin March 3-8 repairing homes damaged by the January 2023 tornadoes. Valparaiso is an independent Lutheran university in Valparaiso, Indiana, whose mission is to prepare students for leadership and service in the world.  The students were accompanied by The Reverend Katherine Museus, University Pastor, and Ryan Cole, Director of Student Philanthropy.  They stayed at the volunteer housing site at Saint John Evangelical Lutheran Church.

These volunteers are part of the long-term recovery led by the Spalding County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SC VOAD).  For the next 3-4 years, Spalding County VOAD will continue to help homeowners in our community repair their homes assisted by the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Catholic Charities of Atlanta.  Through a grant from GEMA, The Salvation Army has equipped a similar team to help our community recover.

The student volunteers worked on several homes in Griffin and Spalding County and were supervised by Craig O’Hara, UMCOR Construction Manager.  Mary and Tor Brunso, members of an experienced mission team from Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Peachtree City, provided on-the-job training.

These students gave up a week of their spring break “to hit the road on a mission trip.”  However, they did not consider this a sacrifice but a way of serving others and learning new skills. They learned how to use sledgehammers and chain saws and how to install insulation and hang drywall.  The Reverend Morgan Gordy, who coordinates Lutheran Disaster Response in four states (Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia), said, “These are life skills everyone needs to learn so that we are prepared for natural disasters that are occurring more frequently.”

When asked what they learned about themselves, the students gave thoughtful responses.  A student majoring in social work answered, “We saw how the lack of insurance and financial resources made it more difficult for homeowners to get the help they needed.”  A student majoring in meteorology responded, “I have learned that these storms are more than just blips on a radar screen.  The storms destroy property and turn lives upside down.”  Another student replied, “Most of us live in the Midwest, and we have never experienced tornadoes.  This week we have witnessed the horrible destruction they cause.”

As the long-term recovery continues in Griffin/Spalding County, volunteers are needed to assist with carpentry, sheetrock, flooring, painting, and similar tasks to help reduce the costs so more homeowners can be helped.  If you want to volunteer, sign up today at