LAUREN WISDOM, TRUMPET FEATURES WRITER
Homes were destroyed, businesses crashed, crops were demolished as August 10, 2020, marked one of the most destructive storms Iowa has experienced.
Winds reached up to 140 miles per hour in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, recording its highest non-tornadic wind gust in state history. Around 140,000 households in Iowa were without power for days, according to poweroutage.us.
Iowa, along with other parts of the Midwest region, was affected by an inland hurricane, known as derecho. Since Cedar Rapids, Iowa was heavily impacted by the storm, according to the National Weather Service, Wartburg Service Trips is directing their attention to help out the city. Students from Wartburg who choose to participate in helping with the derecho relief clean up tree damage, specifically helping to clear out leaves, branches and remove already cut trees from yards.
“The trips will be filled with students living in The Residence Service-Learning suites that found their originally secured community partner unavailable due to COVID issues,” Kristin Teig Torres, Wartburg Service Trips adviser, said. “These students are already living together and this will allow them to travel together in vans. We are making sure students are safe by mandating masks in the vehicles, on the service sites where you are working within six feet of each other or, when other community members are present.”
Already, Wartburg has taken multiple service trips to Cedar Rapids to help clean up the damage that was made by derecho, but according to Wartburg Service Trips, there is still more work to be done.
“There are still people in my city who do not have power,” Caitlin Dreismeier, a Cedar Rapids resident and fourth-year elementary education major, said. “There are people who have debris everywhere in their yards and on their house and they cannot do anything about it because of health conditions or other circumstances and they can’t hire anyone because everyone is so backed up. These people need help. There are people everywhere who need help and you can be that person who makes a change in their life.”
On Wartburg’s last trip to Cedar Rapids on Oct. 3-4, 14 students participated.
Volunteers like Rocio Amaro Marquez, Wartburg Service Trips student director, are looking forward to seeing the progress made in the city.
“After going on two different trips and realizing how much help is still needed, I just want to see progress. I look forward to seeing yards and not branches or tree trunks over them, I look forward to seeing sidewalks not covered by the results of this disaster, and I look forward to making other people happy as we help them.”
Wartburg Service Trips had to make adjustments in the fall to keep participants safe and those helping with derecho relief will be following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines due to the global pandemic while also being placed in groups of people who are in similar living spaces.
In years past, the Service Trips program traveled to a different state over a break to give back to communities in need of volunteer work. However, COVID-19 made it difficult for the program to safely stay overnight somewhere. The excessive amount of damage caused by the derecho was the perfect opportunity for the Service Trips program to give back to a community in their own backyard, according to Torres.
“In these unprecedented times, serving makes us feel full while other things may not,” Marquez said. “During this difficult time, people have to get the help they need now more than ever. Those who are homeless need a place to sleep, those who are hungry need to eat, those whose house has been torn apart by a storm need it to be fixed. There’s always something to do to help others and to make the world a better place, and this fall is no different. By taking all safety measures, we have realized it is possible. We may not be able to travel far due to the lack of breaks, but we can still do other projects around the area while staying safe.”
While being a student at Wartburg College, partaking in a service trip plays a valuable part in helping students grow into better people for life down the road.
“Our Service Trips program provides students the chance to engage in experiential learning focused on various social justice issues,” Torres said. “This learning is something that cannot be duplicated in the classroom. The students remark on the transformational learning that occurs when on the trip, it is something that all Wartburg students should participate in during their four years on campus.”
For more information about Wartburg Service trips, go to wartburg.edu/service-trips/.