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BERLIN -- It's a little place that will house people doing big jobs. And it started right at Berlin Mennonite Church.
The church members -- adults, youth and children -- have joined together to build the 8 °-by-24-foot structure, the first of its kind to be headed out into the field to house Mennonite Disaster Service unit leaders who are on site in areas struck by both natural and man-made disasters, sometimes for weeks and months at a time.
A group from the church went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to tour an MDS facility, which is where they first saw the prototype of the two-bedroom unit, said pastor Myron Weaver. There is a small bathroom area and a bedroom for each unit leader who will oversee work at the site and who will organize and oversee volunteers as they work in the field. Unit leaders, who stay anywhere from 30 days to a year at a site, in the past often would travel in mobile homes or recreational vehicles they owned, said Weaver.
"But that eliminated really good unit leaders," Weaver said, "who could not provide their own campers."
The traveling unit comes out of simple construction and, because it travels on a low-boy trailer, takes height restrictions into account. The unit built by the Berlin church is headed to West Virginia, where the Anabaptist community continues its work months after the summer's flooding that devastated the town of White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County. "A lot of those homes were on a road with a creek bed in between (the house and the road)," Weaver said. "A lot of the bridges to those homes were washed out."
The Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has committed to building 42 new homes in a different spot in that area. And MDS is coordinating and providing additional labor.
While the American Red Cross provided initial disaster relief services to the area, Weaver said, "MDS does long-term. It's there for the long haul, not in and out."
The unit, which has a heating/air conditioning unit in the wall, as well as some shelving and storage in each sleeping room, will stay on site until the work is done and may host any number of unit leaders as they come and go. After the West Virginia project is complete, it will be moved to the next site.
The unit, which costs between $12,000 and $13,000, is being gifted to MDS by the church. Members worked Wednesday evenings and some Saturdays to complete the project and assignments were available for all ages. In all, Weaver said, between 40 ad 50 people participated in the project.
"I think what it will do, a project like this," Weaver said, "is it will propel us to be more active in going (on disaster relief and mission projects)." Family life pastor Jeff Hochstetler agreed. "When we have groups ready to go they'll remember this project and be able to make that connection."
Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.