Christ-Centered Education for Life
Dress-Down Day Money Blesses Flood Victims

October 5, 2016

Lutheran High School East

3565 Mayfield Rd

Cleveland Hts, OH 44118

Dear Students,

Thank you so much for your incredibly generous donation to All Hands Volunteers. While the years have flown by since I graduated from Lutheran East’s cross-town sibling - Lutheran West - I still remember having “Jeans Day” and raising money for various causes. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all, firstly, but also to let you know a little bit about where your money has gone and possible opportunities to serve for young people such as yourselves.

The money you raised and donated for flood relief in September went to All Hands Volunteers. All Hands is an international, non-profit, non-governmental organization, that provides disaster relief services. To translate that into English, All Hands is not tied to any government funding or restrictions and is free to provide help to those in need all over the world when they have been impacted by a natural disaster. The flooding in Baton Rouge, LA, and the surrounding area is a perfect example of such a tragedy. I spent a month volunteering with All Hands outside of Baton Rouge and returned home a few days ago.

In August, Baton Rouge was inundated with rain - over 2 feet fell in 48 hours. This caused rivers and creeks to overflow, flooding over 100,000 homes in the area. The flood was absolutely devastating. Homes received anywhere from a few inches to 8 feet of water. Sadly, there was not enough time for people to prepare appropriately; many lost everything that they had. I’ll enclose some images with this letter that give a glimpse into the scope of this disaster.

Organizations like All Hands work with the federal and state government to provide assistance to those impacted. Your money went directly to funding the work of volunteers who go into people’s homes, remove all of their ruined possessions, tear out the building materials - like walls, ceilings, and insulation - to prevent mold from growing and prepare for eventual rebuilding. This type of work can cost up to $15,000 to hire out to professionals and your assistance allowed us to do this service for free.

So that is what your money went to; helping people who couldn’t help themselves, in the face of a disaster so overwhelming that there will sadly be many families who never recover.

But I also wanted to take a moment to let you know about the opportunities out there for young people such as yourselves to make a difference in the lives of countless people, whether they have been impacted by a sudden disaster or not.

First is through volunteer organizations. Did you know that after high school, you can spend weeks, months, or even years in service as a volunteer? Groups like All Hands Volunteers have projects all over the world - and in the United States - where you can go and serve, with all of your food and lodging paid for. You can see the world, experience new cultures and people, all while helping those in need.

A second opportunity arises with the various federal government programs. The AmeriCorps and FEMA corps are two such programs that are open to citizens over 18 years old. These are excellent opportunities for those who unsure if they are ready, or want, to attend college or trade school. You will learn invaluable skills while serving your fellow Americans, and getting to see new parts of the country. Ask your guidance counselors about these programs and what you can do to prepare yourself to be an excellent candidate.

Finally, you don’t have to wait to volunteer. As students at Lutheran East, I’m sure there are volunteer opportunities that come up routinely for an afternoon or a weekend. You don’t have to limit yourself to people presenting these to you. I encourage you to seek out volunteer opportunities: whether it’s an after-school program for kids, helping at a senior center, working at a sports camp, or just cleaning up the street you live on, I can’t stress enough have important this is.

Volunteering is about service. Service, as author William Deresiewicz points out, is rooted in the Bible. “Serve God, the Children of Israel are told, not Pharaoh. Serve God, Christ says, not Caesar.” Service is about giving and not expecting anything in return. What I’ve found, and I’m sure you will too, is that serving and volunteering has a way of giving back to you way more than you put in. While you certainly shouldn’t expect, or be motivated, by it, serving others tends to fulfill you more than any monetary or material possession can. You can also just ask any of your teachers, staff, or administrators about this: they are excellent examples of answering a call to serve you at Lutheran High School East.

Now that I’ve subjected you to a summer reading assignment worth of text, I’ll close out this letter. Thank you for your donation and I will again challenge and encourage you to learn more about volunteering and service through the countless opportunities that exist. The ones I mention above are excellent, but there are countless ways to serve others. I hope each of you finds a path that runs close to your heart.

Go Falcons!

JJ Hepp

Lutheran West Class of 2005

^ Water line ^

< Mold

7 feet of water leave possessions strewn all over the house

Pictured above: a home that received 7 feet of water and remained untouched until 9/29/16 - roughly 50 days after the flood. The walls are covered in mold and you can see the water line in the upper right. In the bottom right, you see the end result of three days worth of work cleaning the house and preparing it to be rebuilt.

Pictured left: “debris” piles from a single home. The quotes are added because this pile, in fact, represents all the worldly possessions of a family. These things, on August 11th, made up a home and two days later were trash.

A disaster like this is blind: family heirlooms, electronics, computers, social security cards, birth certificates, priceless art and anything else inside of a home are ruined, damaged beyond repair.

3565 Mayfield Road
Cleveland Hts., OH 44118
P (216) 382-6100
F (216) 382-6119