Community Service

I am still alive and well, but it would be hard to tell that lately from my blog. I have been busy, and I have not taken very many pictures. I guess it would be fair to say that my camera drives this blog. It would also be fair to say that this blog drives my camera.

Fall has peaked and ebbed here. I was able to catch some of it, but not nearly as much as I wanted to.

Ripe hawthorns (Crataegus spp)

Ripe hawthorns (Crataegus spp)

Sandogardy Pond

Sandogardy Pond

American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Northfield Town Forest

Northfield Town Forest

The colors here were a lot more vivid in real life. They got better when I switch the camera’s white balance setting to “cloudy” vs “automatic.” It’s probably still on cloudy, as that’s not something I usually think to check.

At the beginning of this month the Pathfinders collected food for the needy. Last week our Church’s Community Services director came in and we helped her sort and store it. We also packed up a couple of boxes for people who requested them. I handed my camera to one of the kids, and he took several shots for me including this one.

Packing a box

Packing a box

I think he did a great job.

That was the same day we did the President’s Challenge Fitness Test. That includes five events – the mile, the shuttle run, V-sit and reach, curl-ups, and push-ups. I always participate in the test with the kids because I think it sets a good example. My own challenge to them was that I would give a dollar to any kid who could beat me in the mile. I also told them that if they wanted to beat me, they would have to run the entire mile, because that’s what I was going to do. I figured I’d be out six or seven bucks, but that motivator only cost me one dollar. I wish it had cost me fifteen. Maybe if the motivator was “whoever is less sore than me tomorrow” it would have.

The day before all that we had our annual induction service. It served as our church service, and I had a ton of work to do to get ready for that. It went pretty smoothly except that I had double-booked one of the parts to two kids. I also forgot to alert the person who had signed up to be the scripture reader that day ahead of time. Sigh.

David played in two more chess tournaments since I last wrote. One was a “quick” tournament where the players had 20 minutes per game. He placed second in that one. The other was a “standard” tournament – his first. In a standard tournament each player gets more than 60 minutes (they had 65 unless I am mistaken). As a result of that tourny, he now has a provisional standard rating – 1843. That’s pretty good. It’s the best rating in his local chess club, and I think he said the 11th best in New Hampshire.

On the heels of all this, we are going to go camping this weekend. I bought all the groceries tonight. I still haven’t packed my things (and Beth has not yet finished packing). Tomorrow I will buy the last few remaining items (such as ice).

The weather is supposed to cooperate, so hopefully I won’t have to dry tents while Sandy blows through New England.


Today we took the Pathfinders to the pool to work on their swimming honors. One of the kids needed a ride, so we swung by her house and picker her up. Then we set out for the pool. I passed a parked police car, and checked my speed – good! But the next thing I knew, she was right behind me with the blue lights going.

My registration had expired.

When we lived in VA, they would send us a notice in the mail, so we never ever forgot to register. But NH does not do that. They rely on you to remember all by your own self, and I have forgotten twice now in seven years. The first time I got a warning. This time, I got a $103.33 ticket. :-/

The officer told me that technically, I was not to operate the vehicle until it was registered, but that she would drive down the road and not notice if I did. So what was I supposed to do? Call a cab and abandon my car until I could get down to the town clerk’s office? “Luckily,” she drove down the road, and I scooted out. But I was paranoid the whole time, just waiting to be pulled over again for the same offense.

We got to the pool and got busy. David stayed on the sidelines to take record of who completed what requirements. I gave him my camera, and he got several shots.
Beth in the pool
Beth earned her Beginner’s Swimming honor.

We worked on the honors for two hours, and then it was time to get out. The boys were out of the dressing rooms in 15 minutes or less. Then we waited another 20 minutes for the girls (and nearly all of the kids are girls). Apparently, they had to dry their hair.

Then we drove (some of us illegally) to the church for our regular meeting. I stopped at Taco Bell and got some lunch (as did several of the other kids).

Beth’s class had our worship service, and they presented the story found in John chapter 9, wherein Jesus healed a man born blind by putting mud over his eyes. Melissa (Beth’s counselor) concocted some mud with chocolate pudding and crushed Oreos. The kid playing Jesus smeared it on our “blind man’s” eyes:

Jesus heals a blind man

Jesus heals a blind man

The kids loved that – especially the one playing the blind man, because as she wiped this stuff off her face, she got to eat it!

We also had our Adventist Community Services director stop by and tell us how she operated our food closet. There was a lot there that I didn’t know. As soon as we read an article on world hunger, we will have met every requirement for the Food Ministries honor (which is a new one). The can collecting and sandwich making we did in October and November also counted towards this one, and we had already done those things when I found this new honor.

Now I’m pretty tired after breaking the law all day, swimming for two hours, and running a Pathfinder meeting. Time to relax!

There has been a lot going on this week with my Pathfinder Club. We are busy raising money so we can go on a mission trip to Holbrook Indian School in Holbrook, AZ. The school is located on a Navajo reservation, and when we get there at the end of February, we have a week’s worth of projects lined up. We will repair 50 bicycles, make window screens, and present some craft sessions for the younger kids there. The crafts will be based on a handful of Adventurer Awards (for which they can receive some insignia, which we will bring with us).

The deadline for the Pathfinders to raise their portion of the money was November 1, but I still have a handful of kids who did not make their goal. So they will be cleaning the church carpets this Saturday evening after Sabbath ends, and I will be there with them to rent the equipment, show them how to use it, and supervise. And help.

I had a couple of donors step forward who wanted to give these kids the money they needed for the trip, but I want to get them out of the habit of receiving hand-outs. So I asked these donors if they would instead donate money to pay the kids to clean the church carpets. It hasn’t been done in about three years.

The way I see it, everybody wins on this one. The donations are tax deductible (and wouldn’t be if they were directed to fund any particular kid’s trip fee). The carpets get cleaned without costing the church anything. The kids learn the value of work, and the Navajo will benefit from their service.

The plan is to buy plane tickets this Sunday for everyone who has either paid up, or who has earned their portion by cleaning the carpets.

The money the kids raise is only a small portion of the total cost. We have been raising money for this project since 2009, and are still going at it.

One of our bigger money-makers has been selling citrus fruit. Sales have been down this year to the point that I was incredibly discouraged. But then at the last minute more orders came in, yay! We almost never have a big enough order to have it delivered directly to our church. For that, we’d need to order 100 cases or more. Luckily, we can have it delivered to a few other places nearby (well… within a two hour drive). But sometimes I get lucky.

Another group from Manchester is ordering this month, and I got a call from them asking if I would pick up their order in Freeport, ME. Ugh. Even though I was willing to do that, I don’t think I could have. Another friend of mine has recently been assigned as pastor of a church in Rutland, VT, and they were also wanting to place an order and have me pick that up.

So I added up the orders for these three organizations – my Pathfinders, the Manchester group, and the Rutland group. It came to 93 cases. I bumped my order up by 7, and it will be delivered directly to our church in two weeks. Yays again!

There’s no way I could haul 93 cases of fruit in Ken’s pickup truck. We’ve hauled 72 cases before, and it was full that time. Adding another 33% on top of that is just too much. The fruit company delivers it in a semi for a good reason.

The other thing I have going on is our annual project for Friendly Kitchen. On the first Saturday of November, the Pathfinders prepare about 80 sack lunches for them. Friendly Kitchen is Concord’s only soup kitchen, and we have been helping them out like this for several years now. They also receive any extra citrus that we buy but end up not being able to sell. That’s the main reason I don’t mind ordering an extra seven cases.

I figure that if the Lord wants us to raise money for our mission trip, He will send buyers. But if He would rather feed His homeless people in Concord, we can do that too. It’s up to Him!

When we make lunches for Friendly Kitchen, I sometimes go out and buy all the supplies we need (food, sandwich baggies, etc) the day before. But this year we made an appeal to the church membership. They have signed up to bring nearly all of it (I wait until last, so I can get whatever we lack).

This approach always makes me nervous, but I guess it shouldn’t. If I’m not the one buying everything, I can never be sure that everything we need will be there when we need it. It’s easy to sign up, buy the food, and leave it at home. It’s really hard to make PB&J sandwiches without bread.

In spite of my fears, I agreed to ask the church to help us out. But tonight I also called all the people who signed up. And I asked for enough supplies to make 100 lunches this year instead of the usual 80. I guess I was hedging our risk – if some people forget, we should still be able to make something. We will give all the leftover food to Friendly Kitchen after the lunches have been made. Their need is perpetual.

My faith still has more growing to do. If I can trust the Lord with the citrus, why not for the homeless lunches too? This is a case where I have “fearful faith” – I force myself to step out even if I’m nervous about it.

I wonder if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were nervous when they refused to worship Nebuchanezzer’s image?

Saturday the Pathfinders fanned out over a neighborhood in South Concord distributing empty grocery bags with notes stapled to them. The note was an appeal for them to donate non-perishables for the needy.

Then on Sunday after our Pathfinder meeting we went back to that neighborhood to collect the donations. It was a pretty decent haul.

Food Drive

Food Drive

Not everyone was able to join us in the afternoon, so this photo shows only about half the kids in the club.

This week I went to Castle in the Clouds with my employer and several customers. I enjoyed it very much, and managed to get this sunset shot. I’m not very good at landscape photos, so from me, this is as good as those get.

Sunset at Castle in the Clouds

Sunset at Castle in the Clouds

I have another big weekend planned… actually, the next three weekends. Tomorrow the Pathfinders will fan out across a neighborhood in Concord and execute phase one of our annual food drive. We distribute bags with notes in them explaining the purpose of the bags. Then on Sunday (after our regular Pathfinder meeting) we will go back out again and collect the bags (and presumably the food people have donated). The food is given to people who ask our church for help.

To that end, I have made up some maps dividing the target neighborhood into seven sections. Actually, I found the maps I made last year and printed them out. We will only have five teams this year, but that’s OK. I also bought another thousand T-shirt sacks at Sam’s Club (that is, those plastic grocery bags that say “Thank you!” on them. Va made 100 copies of our plea, and I made another 200 after work. The copier at church will not make more than 100 at a time or it overheats and jams. Thus, the two phases.

Tomorrow the Pathfinders will staple the sheets to the bags and then distribute them.

On the following weekend we will go camping (just our club rather than the whole conference), and the weekend after that will be our Induction ceremony during the church service. That’s a lot of stuff to plan, but luckily… I like to plan things.

Drying six tents

Drying six tents

I set these tents up in my yard Monday so that I could store them dry (otherwise they will mold). They were nearly dry Wednesday, but I didn’t manage to take them down before it rained. It rained all day Thursday, and a little bit this morning. It’s supposed to rain basically every day until Thursday, so I thought I should do something else.

This evening I moved four of them into the garage and one into the basement. The sixth one will not be used by us next weekend (one of my Pathfinders left it in our trailer last spring, so it was accidentally used last weekend). I sent a couple of the kids to the trailer to fetch the “four person” tent, and they found his instead. I didn’t notice until they had pitched it in the rain, and since it was already wet by then, I figured it would be best to just use it and then dry it out with the others. I will leave it in my yard and let it dry after this week of forecast rain passes.

I am back from the NNEC Pathfinder Fall Camporee, and sufficiently recovered now that I can type without falling over from exhaustion.

Executive summary: it was a huge success.

We arrived Friday evening about an hour later than I had intended. One of the kids was running late, and I didn’t think to force her onto the “late train” until it was too late. The “late train” is the vehicle that leaves last to pick up the kids who can’t get out of school early, and I know there was one seat available there. I got as far as calling the late train conductor and reserving a seat, and then calling the parent of the kid who was late. But by then she was within minutes of arriving, so we just waited.

It was pouring rain when we arrived. Luckily, our camp site had a lean-to on it, so we were able to pitch our little tents in the dry and then move them out into the rain and stake them down. I love using little tents, and I will add this to my long list of reasons why.

It poured all night and was raining when we woke up. I got everyone up at 6:00am and got the breakfast crew started on breakfast. Even with an early start like that, it still took forever to get breakfast ready. I am still trying to figure that one out. I think I am going to try to recruit a cook for the camporees. Most of the other clubs do this, and I understand that things go much more smoothly that way. I will still have the kids cook when we’re having a club campout and I am in control of the scheduling though, because they need to know how to do that. It’s just that I don’t think they need to learn that skill when we’ve got a ticking clock racing us.

We made it to flag raising on time, and three kids from our club raised the American flag. Then we had Sabbath School and church in a pavilion. During one of those service, the refugee girls from our club presented a song in Kirundi – the language of Burundi. It was very well received, and they did a great job.

About the time church was over, it finally quit raining. Then we had lunch. Mike Ortel, the president of our conference ate with us, and I enjoyed chatting with him. He’s a great guy. We also had Kurt Amos over for lunch. He’s a new area coordinator with our conference, and he was running this camporee. I really like him too. He was unable to stay for lunch though, as it was once again taking the kids an eternity to get the food ready, and since Kurt was running the camporee, he was unable to stay long enough to eat. I hope he found food somewhere.

By the time the kids finished eating, it was already time for the afternoon activities to begin. They had not yet washed their dishes, so I made the executive decision to send them along anyhow, and I did their dishes for them. David offered to stay behind and help me, and I very much appreciated that.

When we finished the dishes, we had the choice of finding our group in the activity rotations, or just relaxing a bit. We decided to relax, so we kicked back for half an hour and chatted. Then we caught up with our group as they finished the last two rotations.

Then it was time for a supper of grilled cheese, which seemed to go a lot smoother than the previous two meals. Maybe that’s because grilled cheese is so easy to make. Also, my friends Robbie and Coral were cooking for the Portsmouth club and had way too much soup. They gave us about two gallons of it, and it was delicious. That saved us from having to open our canned tomato soup (we’ll use it on the next campout).

We went to the evening program, the highlight of which is always a talent show (well – without awards or judging). David had written a skit (including lots of easy-to-learn parts for the kids). It was mocking an infomercial advertising “Stench-B-Gone” a fictitious deodorant. His skit was hands down the best one presented. If there had been awards and judging, this would have won.

We went to bed after that, and got up early Sunday to get ready to work the hurricane relief project I had lined up for the conference. Somehow, breakfast was ready in record time and we were ready to go when we needed to go.

Paul, David, myself, and two teen boys from my club drove up there together and checked in at the Chamber of Commerce where we met Sarah Shippee, who was our contact. She took us down to the park and explained what needed to be done.

I had intended to take lots of pictures while we worked, but found that if I did that, I couldn’t get much work done. It’s hard to shovel mud or pick up debris with a camera bag slung over the shoulder. I did get a few shots though.

Tennis Court

Tennis Court

This is the tennis court where the bulk of our work was done. We had about 90 Pathfinders there. The court was covered with mud about two inches deep, and we shoveled all that out. We also cleared the debris from the fence. The water line went up about 8 feet on the fence.

Two of my girls (one being Beth)

Two of my girls (one being Beth)

Here are two girls from my club (one of them being my daughter, Beth) picking up sticks, leaves, and trash all embedded in the fence and caked on with mud. We did this for a while when Paul decided that having 90 people in this one spot was not terribly effective. He asked me to take a group to the other park Sarah had shown us and work on that. I think it was a brilliant move, as there was a lot of crowding in the tennis court and its surrounding area.

Here is the trash we removed from the other park.

Debris pile

Debris pile

There must have been a hundred miles of yarn in that debris. My guess is that a low-lying yarn store was just upstream. We also found a lot of fire wood. I found that particularly heart-breaking, thinking about some guy diligently cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood to warm his house this winter, only to have it all swept away in one night. We stacked the firewood in a separate pile. I hope somebody picked it up and will use it, even though we only found a small pile. Still it might have been enough wood to heat a house for a week.

Around 11:30 we headed back to the tennis courts. A lot of people from Wilmington stopped and thanked us. Some honked and waved, so we waved back.

A thankful resident with her two kids, Harry Sabnani, and Sarah Shippee

A thankful resident with her two kids, Harry Sabnani, and Sarah Shippee

The lady on the left in this photo walked to the site with her two kids. She is a resident of the area and was just beside herself with joy that we were there. She cried and everything. The guy in the middle is Harry Sabnani, our conference Youth Director. Paul answers to him. The woman on the right is Sarah Shippee who arranged the project for us. She was fantastic too.

By lunch time we had finished clearing debris from the park as well the tennis courts. It was an amazing difference, and I failed to capture that difference with my camera. Sorry about that!

Some people from Home Depot had set up a free barbeque and invited our group to come and eat all the food we wanted. Little did they realize that most of our group was vegetarian, and that eating pork is against our religion. But they also had sodas, cupcakes, cookies, and bottled water which the kids gleefully accepted.

I talked with some of the people there while the kids ate cookies. He wanted to know who we are, so I gave him a briefing. He thanked us several times for coming out, and I thanked him for feeding us cookies.

Then we all headed back to Molly Stark State Park where we had been camping. We had our closing ceremonies, broke camp, piled in the car and ate a sack lunch on the way home.

I heard several people tell me that they thought this was the best camporee they had ever been on (in spite of the rain). I was absolutely thrilled that we were able to serve that community. I think it would have been a crime for us to camp in the middle of a disaster zone and do nothing more than roast marshmallows.

When I got home I had six wet tents to pitch, but I just tossed them onto the deck too exhausted to do anything about them. I pitched them this evening though, and when they are dry, I will take them down again.

I am still pretty tired! And now I need to go down to the basement and see if I can figure out why the washing machine doesn’t spin. :-/

The seminar went well Friday, and I really felt I had nailed my presentation. The National ACS-DR people were there leading (they were the ones who tasked us to teach pieces of Friday’s session), and they had brought some models to show how to set up a collection center and a distribution center. Here’s the distribution center:

Distribution Center

Distribution Center

I thought that was a pretty good teaching tool. It’s much better than showing photos since it gives a better feel for the setup in three dimensions.

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