A Big Easy decision

Local teens headed to New Orleans to help out

It didn't take much effort for John Graler to convince 20 high school-age members of First Christian Church to give up their spring break to help Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans.

Graler, the youth pastor at the church on Victory Way, said that when he asked the students whether they wanted to help clean up the Gulf Coast, they jumped at the opportunity.

"I didn't have to beg, that's for sure," Graler said.

The group of 20 teens and seven adult chaperones will leave March 17 for New Orleans, where they'll work with a mission organization to help clean up the hurricane-ravaged city.

Joshua Frederickson, 18, one of the 20 students headed to New Orleans, said giving up spring break wasn't a hard decision.

"I just wanted to help out the people," Frederickson said. "Usually, I just hang out with my friends during spring break."

In New Orleans, the group from Craig will work with a Kentucky-based organization called CrossRoads Missions.

The 27 people will stay for five days at a church school that has been converted to a base of operations for CrossRoads.

By coincidence, the group from First Christian will be in New Orleans at the same time as a church group from Hayden.

Graler said the group from Craig won't be doing any rebuilding work in New Orleans, but they will do a lot of cleanup work.

By helping people clean up, the group from Craig can help raise the spirits of hurricane victims, Graler said.

"There are a lot of people down there that are just completely hopeless and discouraged," he said.

Andy White, director of development for CrossRoads, said the group from Craig would mostly do "mud-outs," which means clearing the mud out of homes.

White hasn't been to New Orleans since shortly after the storm. But people from CrossRoads who are down there say it looks like a "moonscape," he said.

"It doesn't sound like it's a whole lot different than it was a couple weeks after (the storm)," White said.

Graler said he hopes the teens from Craig come back from the Gulf Coast with a new perspective on life.

"I hope they realize that their circumstances are much better than they realized," he said.

Stephanie Puhl, 16, one of the students from Craig going on the trip, said she hopes the trip teaches her about what it's like to lose everything.

"If my entire house was gone, I wouldn't know what to do," Puhl said.

Like Frederickson and the rest of the students going to New Orleans, Puhl said it was an easy decision to make.

"I'm excited to be a part of the helping process," she said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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