NORTH STONINGTON — Nine Wheeler High School students are packing their bags and will soon be engaged in cleanup work in parts of South Carolina ravaged by Hurricane Florence last month.
They’ll be cleaning out mud-filled homes, gathering up salvageable belongings and tearing out water-damaged furniture and other debris. The work will be demanding, physically challenging and rewarding.
“I think it’s going to give us all a new perspective, to see what they’ve gone through,” student Leah Pion said. “I feel like it’s going to humble us a lot to see what so many people lost in the hurricane.”
A long list of items each student planned to pack includes the basics like jeans and work pants, bug spray and work boots. But also on the list is a “sense of adventure” and a “willingness to help.”
It’s a volunteer effort by the members of the school’s Give Back/Interact Club, who plan to fly out Thursday evening, bound for Myrtle Beach.
“We’re super excited about it,” Rebecca Schilke, a reading specialist at the high school and co-adviser to the group, said.
They’ll spend five days working with Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based humanitarian organization that provides supplies and other aid after disasters.
Samaritan’s Purse has put the group of girls up at Socastee Baptist Church for the duration of their stay and will also provide meals and snacks. The students have paid for the flight through donations and fundraisers.
This isn’t the first time the Give Back Club has traveled to help others in need. Last year, members traveled to Victoria, Texas, to provide aid after Hurricane Harvey. While there, one of their chores was to rip out water-damaged wallboard from homes.
“The kids will tell you, it changed their lives,” Schilke said. “Four of the five who went wrote about it as part of their senior essays when they applied to colleges. It was something they’ll remember forever.”
The high school students will be joined and supervised by Schilke and co-adviser Rebecca Costello, a science teacher, as well as two former students who made the Texas trip and are now in college. One is Schilke’s daughter, Rachel. The other is Kelsey MarcAurele.
“My favorite part was getting to interact with homeowners,” Rachel said of last year’s excursion. “We were able to get pretty close to the families we worked with.”
MarcAurele called the work personally rewarding.
“I liked seeing the impact I was able to make by helping,” she said.
Since Wheeler High School’s 2018 Give Back Club began four years ago, they’ve held a pajama drive for foster kids in New York City, collected hats and mittens for a school in Philadelphia, and put baskets together for local veterans on Veterans Day.