In 2013, a tornado struck the central Illinois town of Washington.  Hearing the reports inspired Eric Schlichting to form a group of volunteers to travel to the town and help. 
 
We welcomed Past District Governor Rick Rivkin and Pastor Eric Schlichting as our guests today. 
 
Eric was also our speaker and he talked about the mission trips the Northwest Suburban Interfaith Council undertake to help communities beset by natural disaster.  The seed for the idea was sowed at the Council's annual Thanksgiving dinner.  Plenty of coordination and hard work goes into the annual dinner and then...there's nothing until the next year.  Eric felt that there was an opportunity to harness these wonderful people to do more good. 
 
In 2013, a tornado struck the central Illinois town of Washington.  Hearing the reports inspired Eric to form a group of volunteers to travel to Washington and help.  30 people stayed 3 days in the town and helped anyway they could.  Their biggest projects were clearing farmland of debris so it could be planted with crops again.  (The alternative was scraping the soil off completely, leaving the ground useless for farming.)  They also helped build pre-fab sheds families could use to store belongings that had survived the storm. 
 
While helping those in need was rewarding, Eric especially appreciated the opportunity to make new friends with so many different people.  He not only got to know the volunteers from the Council better, he became good friends with many of the local residents.  One of whom was moved to say that he'd never say a bad word about Chicago again! 
 
With the trip being such a success, Eric talked about their next trip to Brookport, Illinois.  Brookport is in the far southern tip of Illinois and was also devastated by a tornado in 2013.  For whatever reason, the town did not receive the media attention and public support that Washington and other locales did and two years later, they are still struggling to recover.  Eric wants to bring fifty volunteers down for four days to help build houses for those who are still homeless.  They are trying to raise $17,000 to pay for the logistics of the trip - transportation, housing, food, etc.  The houses they'll be making are in different stages of completion and so volunteers of all skill sets are welcome. They will have several master carpenters along to oversee the work as well. 
 
Eric is growing a wonderful service that hopefully will turn into annual (or more?) trips to devastated areas.  They're willing to do whatever is needed in the community to help make life a bit more normal.  And if new friendships are made in the process?  All the better!
 

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