MDS celebrates National Volunteer Month


How much are MDS volunteers worth? More than $4 million!

By Mark Beach


April is “National Volunteer Month” in the United States and National Volunteer Week, April 11-15, in Canada.

For organizations like Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), no month of the year could be more important than April. Volunteers are the life blood of MDS. Without them, there is no MDS. Without them, many survivors of storms will lose hope and struggle to recover.

In 2014 there were 3,636 short-term, long-term, youth and retirees assisting disaster survivors in Canada and the U.S. Together they worked more than 26,361 days and served 463 disaster survivors.

They cleaned up after disasters, made minor and major repairs to some 250 homes and buildings and built 36 new homes.

They worked in High River, Alta; Alakanuk, Ala.; Detroit, Mich.; Fort Walton, Fla.; Staten Island, NY; and Hattiesburg, Miss.; to name a few places. They even helped to build a small bridge in West Virginia and gutted and rebuilt an old brick home destroyed by fire in downtown Kitchener, Ont.

It is not at all difficult to tabulate the numbers and even the monetary worth. The value of the 2014 MDS volunteer labor is roughly $4.7 million USD ($5.9 million CDN) when calculating 3,636 volunteers working 26,361 eight-hour days at $22.55 per hour, the national hourly average according to the Independent Sector, a non-profit advocacy group. 

“Without our volunteers, MDS would be an empty shell," says MDS executive director Kevin King. "We need them; the disaster survivors need them. They bring hope, joy and the love of Christ to places and people who are just asking for some hope and peace.”


MDS volunteers feted

The MDS binational staff hosted local MDS volunteers at a luncheon held April 7 at the MDS Lititz, Pa., offices, just as a moment of appreciation for all of that they give.

Homeowners and partner groups from Far Rockaway, NY, sang praises and gave thanks to God April 2 for the hundreds of volunteers who came through their community over the past three years rebuilding homes after Superstorm Sandy.

Pointing at pictures of volunteers in a recent copy of the MDS newsletter, Behind the Hammer, Anne Marie Durm, a Howard Beach, NY, homeowner, said that each morning, “I pray for each one of them.”

Durm was found shivering on the third floor attic of her home after Sandy nearly destroyed her home. Today her home is solid, secure and warm, and she will be the first to say, it’s because of volunteers.

When listening to New York State Senator James Sanders speak of MDS volunteers, however, it is not about the money saved when MDS volunteers serve a community. It was about something else, a different value and a priceless value.

Sanders was as insistent as he was in jest, when he said at the Far Rockaway gathering that MDS is not allowed to leave New York, even though the work is done. “We are not going to let you go,” he said.

“By the power invested in me I revoke your leaving; you cannot leave the Rockaways; we have fallen in love with you and therefore you are ours,” he said to applause from the audience.


Photo by Lawrence Matthews: Bluffton University students, Andrea Klein, a senior from Napolean, OH, (left) and Rachel Keske, a sophomore from Lima, OH, (right) stand with Cletus Yoder, Galloway, OH. These Bluffton students volunteered with MDS in Far Rockaway, NY, during their spring break week.

Mennonite Disaster Service is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that responds in Christian love to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States. While the main focus is on clean up, repair and rebuilding homes, this service touches lives and nurtures hope, faith and wholeness.



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