Day 2 – Clendenin

Monday, November 25, 2019

It was near the freezing point when we woke up and after a delicious breakfast cooked by Esther; Billy Frye, our crew leader and a member of VOAD, arrived at the campsite and drove with us to the job site, where we would be rebuilding a 36 ft bridge.   The previous week Billy, a few other members of VOAD ( Caleb and Scotty ) and some volunteers had spent a few days working on the bridge.

It was a 30 minute drive to the job site at the Mullin house and once there, we surveyed the old bridge, discussed the work that had to be done and spent several hours removing the heavy, rotten wooden decking that had been loosened the previous week.   

After the wood had been removed from the bridge, Billy cut the severely rusted steel beams from the steel foundations, cut them in half and then proceeded to remove them.

While we were in the process of removing the beams, the homeowner came outside and sat on the deck of her house and watched us.   I talked with her a while and found out that the house had belonged to her mother, she had purchased it a few years ago and she now lived in it with her daughter.   I didn’t see her daughter but I believe that she was working.

When the beams had been removed, Billy dug the base for the footing on the road side, so that we could place the form for the concrete on it and insert the rebar.

The form for the house-side of the bridge had been completed and set in place the previous week.   By the end of the day, we had finished removing the old deck and made most of the preparations for pouring the concrete the next day.

By 4:30 pm we packed up and drove back to the campsite where we met some volunteers who were building a house for a local family.

After eating a wonderful supper prepared for us by Esther, we spent the evening exchanging stories and events we had experienced during the day.

Day 1 – Drive to West Virginia

Sunday – November 24, 2019

In the early fall of 2019, I called the MDS office to see if the ‘ Bridges ‘ program was still operational.   I was informed that it was still active and was being now being run by VOAD ( Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters ) in conjunction with the the Region 1 MDS unit, so I contacted Rodney Burkholder, the contact person for Region 1.    He informed me that more than 60 private bridges had been built and VOAD has funding for another 50 due to the success of the program.  I informed him that I would like to bring a crew to help build a bridge during the American Thanksgiving week.   He told me that the week was available for me to come down, however, there may be difficult to arrange for a local cook to be available on Thursday or Friday due to the American holiday, so I told him that I would see if I could arrange for a cook to come along with us.

After contacting several people and a few changes in volunteers, I had confirmations from Wieland Hamm, as well as, Erwin ( Erv ) & Esther Willms.   Esther had agreed to be the cook for us and the occasional workers that would be there for the house building projects in the area.

It was a cool 4 C ( 38 F ) when we left Niagara at 8 am.   We arrived at the Nexus booth at the Peace Bridge slightly before 9 am.   The border guard asked us where we were going and the purpose of our trip,    After giving her our border crossing letters and explaining that we were service volunteers going to West Virginia to help build bridges, she asked us to go through US Customs because she didn’t know how to handle the situation.   The guard in the custom office was very pleasant, but after talking to us ( with his supervisor watching ), he decided to ‘ parole ‘ us by taking all of our passport information, fingerprinting each of our fingers and taking our pictures.  2 hours later we were free to go.

The next 6 hours were uneventful with only a few rest stops and a stop shortly after we entered West Virginia, for lunch.

We arrived in Clendenin at 5:30 pm and met with Rodney and Joyce Burkholder at the MDS campsite which was located in a former church building.   We made our introductions and then headed to the town of Elkview and had supper at a Mexican restaurant that Rodney had recommended.   

After supper we bought some groceries at a Kroger store in the area, before we returned to the campsite for the evening where we relaxed after the long drive.