St. Philip’s Disaster Relief (SPDR)

Teams of volunteers, with varied skills, respond to natural disasters helping victims rebuild their homes and lives. Efforts range from day trips to week-long trips. Relief work has been done in Mississippi, Texas, New Jersey, and Florida following hurricanes; Minnesota, Iowa, Tennessee, North Dakota, Colorado, and Missouri following flooding; Colorado following wildfires; and Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin following tornadoes.

Members of the April 2023 rebuild trip to Waverly, TN were interviewed by Writer Canon King of the News-Democrat, the Humphreys County weekly newspaper.

Click here to read the article.


Day 1 – Saturday, April 22
A big thank you to everyone that was at St. Philip’s this morning to see us off. We left on time and the fourteen of us pulled into our St. Louis hotel around 8 PM. It was an uneventful drive and the temperature never got above 45 degrees. Brrrr! But we saw trees with leaves on them and grass that had already been mowed!

Day 2 – Sunday, April 23
14 of us rolled out of Hazelwood, MO at 8:00 AM this morning with another eventful day of driving. It was sunny today and was great to see all the green grass, trees, and fields. A far cry from what we saw when we left Minnesota on Saturday.

We arrived in Waverly, TN around 3:00 PM and joined up with five of other team members who arrived earlier and had been out looking at the possible jobsites and also picking up the grocery order. We had a good supper and have all settled in for the night.

We have our job assignments figured out and are hoping things will go smoothly tomorrow.

Day 3 – Monday, April 24
Our 20th team member joined us today. Two more are on their way after having some car trouble on their travels from Texas to Tennessee.

We started working in four homes and things went really well for a Monday. We started building stairs and framing walls at one home. In another, we are under the house supporting the “spongy” floor that has rotten joist, sub-floor, and more. In a third home, we are replacing the siding on the second story gabled ends and inside, we cleaned the sheetrock dust throughout the home and started priming many of the walls and ceilings. In the fourth house, we are back for the third. This time we are installing crown molding. (In the past we install insulation and sheetrock and then doors and trim.) And, of course, our cooks were busy planning, shopping, and preparing our meals.

At our team meeting this evening, it was amazing to hear the team members report on their day of work. They shared some of the flood experiences of the homeowners (and grocery store staff the cooks interacted with.) Those were heart wrenching but the reports on the work accomplished were all so positive and laced with a lot of humor. All would probably agree that it was a good day!

Day 4 – Tuesday, April 25
A great day! The weather was wonderful – started out cool and cloudy but ended up sunny with the temperature in the upper sixties.

So much progress was made at all of the houses. It’s been amazing. We definitely will be able to finish up some of our assignments. It’s been wonderful to talk with the homeowners and other residents of Waverly that we’ve encountered. They’ve endured a lot and are so grateful for the help they’ve received.

Day 5 – Wednesday, April 26
Another great day with great weather and great progress. The exterior walls have all been framed up on the house and the stair stringers and landings are in place with temporary stair treads.  The spongy floor has been taken care of along with the support for the bathtub and replacement of the drywall. In the third home, the siding has been replaced on the south side of the home and most of the north side that needed to be done and ALL of the interior painting is complete. In the fourth home, the crown molding was installed in the rooms where it was needed and also two interior doors that wouldn’t close were removed repaired, and now fit the openings.
We also did some work organizing the Inspiritus warehouse, taped and mudded the piece of drywall that was replaced in the first home, and started painting a large picket fence. The weather tomorrow calls for rain all day so me are planning on all indoor jobs tomorrow.
We’ve talked to all of the homeowners where we are working. We heard some amazing stories of what they endured the day of the flood.

Day 6 – Thursday, April 27
Today turned out to be a “When God closes a door, He opens a window” kind of day. The predicted rain materialized in the late morning which meant that we didn’t work on framing any more walls or completing the siding installation. And it meant a whole lot of team members needing to be reassigned. Since we had completed the interior painting so quickly, we realized that the flooring could be installed, the trim could be painted, and the windows could be trimmed out. And a whole lot of people could do that work. So, they did! Toward the end of the day, 15 of our team members were doing work in or for this house.

After realizing a garage door installation job couldn’t be done because the door was the wrong size, that two-person crew was reassigned to fix the door and storm door at the house that had the spongy floor. The homeowner had not been able to easily open or close those doors. Now she can!

In the meantime, another two-person crew installed some drywall in a pantry and some accessories in a bathroom in another home. When they finished that, they joined the flooring crew.

Two others applied another coat of mud to the drywall that was installed yesterday and then joined the crew that was painting window trim at the Inspiritus warehouse that has a roof with only a couple leaks and room for 16’ long pieces of trim. And some additional organizing was done in the warehouse today. We are hoping that RJ, the construction manager, will be able to find everything.

And our cooks were busy, as usual, providing us with delicious meals.

Note – forgot to mention yesterday that our last two team members arrived safely form Texas late yesterday afternoon. Jan has joined the cooking crew and Al was part of the door installation crew and also entertained us after dinner with songs and guitar playing. Great to have them here!

Day 7 – Friday, April 28
WOW! What a week! We are all amazed and pleased with what we got done.

At Jane and Jerry’s house, the crew that was building walls completed their assignment. In four days the framed up and sheathed all the exterior walls, built the 14 stairs/landings to get up to the second floor, and framed up the interior walls. They knew they were done because they had no 2x4s left to build anymore walls.

At Tiffany’s house, both the front door and the screen door now work and she won’t injure her hip trying to get the door to close. Adjustments to the frame and the length of the door so it now fits in the opening. The drywall finishing was completed and some additional work was done on a bathroom wall and it is now ready for painting.

At the Anderson house, despite a little rain, the siding was completed. Inside, six windows were framed up which required quite a bit of cutting skill. The jambs, that normally would be rectangles, had to be cut as trapezoids and other shapes, to accommodate the out-of-square conditions everywhere. The windows jambs and trim were painted and some of the interior walls were touched up where needed. The flooring was complete in the whole house – living room/dining room/kitchen, three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry area. It went down to the wire, with the last piece of flooring was put in place as the trailers were almost completely packed and ready to roll out.

As is our tradition, we finished out the week with our pizza gathering. It was held at Gretchen’s home (where we worked earlier this week and on the previous two trips) even though she wasn’t home until later in the evening. That’s Southern hospitality! And we were once again entertained by the bluegrass band that has its roots in Faith Lutheran Church of Lebanon, TN. They made the end of this amazing week so special. A big thank you to the band members – Jim, Mike, Kristine, Debbie, and SPDR team member, Pastor Matt. They hadn’t played together since they played for us last fall. Seems that we now have our own tools, trailers, cooks, and band!

We’ll scatter tomorrow – heading towards Fridley, Chicago, Grand Rapids, MI, and Nashville having come together to be God’s hands and feet in Waverly, TN.

Day 8 – Saturday, April 29
Some of our team members have arrived home already, others are making this an extended trip and won’t be home until mid-May, and the majority of us are in Mount Pleasant, Iowa for the night. Had some fog and rain for a couple hours in the morning and then rain again in the early evening but an uneventful drive. The 14 of us gathered together in the hotel breakfast area at our hotel for one last supper together. Chicken, wings, and more from the local Pizza Ranch hit the spot. We think it’s going to feel great to sleep in real beds again and they certainly will be much quieter than the cots some of our team members slept on this past week! We’ll be back on the road tomorrow at 8:00 and should arrive at St. Philip’s around 2:45.

Day 9 – Sunday, April 30
This Waverly, TN journey has ended. We pulled into St. Philip’s right on time at 2:40 this afternoon. Must’ve been the blustery weather that kept the team members from hanging around too long. Within a half hour of the last vehicle arriving, all the luggage was unpacked from the trailers and transferred to waiting vehicles, the trailers were parked inside the storage facility, and the parking lot was empty.

This was a great trip with wonderful team members that got an amazing amount of work accomplished. They helped rebuild six homes, organized part of the Inspiritus warehouse, and prepared meals for the team members. They lived out the Bible verse of 1 Peter 4:10 NIV. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Thank you to the 22 members of Team Waverly #3 and all of the SPDR supporters and partners. The journey continues…


Day 1 – Saturday, October 1

Thank you to everyone that was at St. Philip’s to see us off this morning. It was an uneventful travel day – which is a good thing! 14 of us are in O’Fallon, IL for the night and will arrive in Waverly late tomorrow afternoon.

Day 2 – Sunday, October 2

We had another great day for driving. We stopped in Paducah, KY to walk along the Ohio River and view the murals that are painted on the floodwalls. It was a gorgeous afternoon for that. We then continued our drive to Waverly, arriving shortly after 3 o’clock. We have a couple of jobsites lined up for our work tomorrow and will probably have a few more as the week progresses. There are now 17 of us settled in for the night in Waverly with our last team member joining us tomorrow morning.

Day 3 – Monday, October 3

Our last team member arrived this morning so now there are 18 of us working at three jobsites in the Waverly area.  Since it was a Monday, we got off to a slow start – getting tools to the right locations, figuring out what needed to be done, waiting for materials, and a learning curve for some of the tasks but by the afternoon things were rolling.

Our largest team spent the day working on the Inspirtus warehouse that holds all of the building materials and tools they have along with space for an office for the construction manager. We prepped the area around the building which meant weed whipping and mowing and removing vines that were growing up the outside of the building. We then rearranged some of the items in the warehouse, put poly on much of the office area side along with insulation.

A second team worked in a house where we had done a lot of drywall installation in May. We are going to install trim in this house and got started on that by trimming out three large windows. We cleaned scrubbed several doors and window frames and hung a few of the doors. Tomorrow it’s on to the baseboards.

A third team started work in a home about 15 miles north of Waverly. While waiting for supplies to be delivered, they removed tongue and groove flooring from one room and, later, got started on building a deck. The house has flooded in the past and the homeowner decided it was time to raised the house, about 6’, so the deck and stairs are now needed to access the entrance.

Our fourth team was our two cooks that made breakfast this morning, shopped and prepped for future meals, and made a delicious dinner for all of us this evening.

Tomorrow we will work at these same locations and expect a lot of progress.

Day 4 – Tuesday, October 4

Today was very productive and the weather was great. The work continued at all of the jobsites with so much progress made. The warehouse office work has been completed and that crew will move on to another job while the rest of the team will continue in the two houses, the church kitchen, and the organization and electrical work in the warehouse.

Day 5 – Wednesday, October 5

It was another great day!

In the home north of Waverly, the subfloor in one bedroom was installed yesterday and the deck construction is rapidly moving along. The homeowner has done some of the drywall finishing which allowed us to get started with some primer of the drywall in a couple of small rooms.

The trim installation continued in the home here in Waverly with six new doors installed and trimmed out.

In the warehouse, the electrical work which included installing a meter, the panel, switches, and lights has been completed. That only needs the inspection and hook-up and then R.J., the Inspiritus construction manager, will have an office. Also, the organization of the supplies and tool in the warehouse was completed today. Hopefully, volunteers looking for certain items will now be able to find them since all of the boxes and bins are labeled with the contents and the labels on the shelves mark the location of everything.

Work was started (and completed) in another house today. A shed was demolished and the boards all loaded unto a trailer for disposal. The closet housing the water heater was sheetrocked and the homeowner’s possessions in the utility room were moved out to the carport by our team members.

Our cooks continued with their meal planning, prep, and serving. We were well fed today!!!

Day 6 – Thursday, October 6

Wow, are we making progress!

At the house north of Waverly, most of the deck boards have been installed. A second coat of primer has put on the walls of the rooms that were done yesterday and a bedroom got the first coat.

The trim project continued with eight doors installed and trimmed out and baseboard installation has started.

We started another house today. We insulated most of the ceiling and got started installing drywall. The homeowner was thrilled when she stopped over early in the day and overjoyed to see that she had walls when she came back in the evening.

Tomorrow will be a short day and we’ll do what we can to help these Waverly residents recover.

Day 7 – Friday, October 7

If only we had one more day. We’ve said that often over the years and it rang true today. It’s always hard to end the week knowing there’s so much more to be done and not knowing if there will be more volunteers to help soon. Another day would have maybe meant more painting completed, stairs to the deck, more baseboard in place, the insulation completed, and more drywall installed in the three houses we were working in today.

We finished the deck at the home north of Waverly and applied a second coat of paint to the bedroom.

We added baseboard to the rooms in the back of the house where we had installed the doors and trim earlier in the week.

We continued to install insulation, until we ran out, and almost finished the drywall installation of the living room, dining room, and kitchen of the house we started yesterday.

Although we don’t have one more day, we know that what we did get done helps move these families closer to getting back to living in their homes. They were all so appreciative of that.

To end our week here in Waverly, we had our traditional pizza party with some very special guests. All of the homeowners that we met were there. We were also joined by Inspiritus staff, Pastor Morgan Gordy – Assistant to the Bishop for Disaster Response and Bishop Emeritus Julian Gordy. And we had a live performance by the Band of Faith from Faith Lutheran in Lebanon, TN. This is the church where our team member, Pastor Matt Steinhauer, served until his retirement earlier this year. What a joy it was to listen to them! Thank you so much, Matt, Julian, Debbie, Kristine, Jim, and Mike! You made the end of our week memorable.

Day 8 – Saturday, October 8

Our team has now scattered to different parts of the country. Matt left for his home in Hendersonville, TN last night. The rest of us left Waverly around 8:30 this morning and headed in several directions. Some of the team members headed home to Illinois and Michigan while others went on to Florida or Memphis. Most of us are now in Mt. Pleasant, IA for the night and will arrive back at St. Philip’s late in the afternoon.

Although we are scattered, we will forever be a team that served as God’s hands and feet in Waverly, TN.

Day 9 – Sunday, October 9

Today was another uneventful travel day and we arrived back at St. Philip’s mid-afternoon. We are all a little weary from a week of work but our hearts are full because of the people we met in Waverly, the homeowners we helped, and the relationships we made or strengthened. We are grateful for the team members, the Band of Faith, our partners in Waverly, and all those that supported us at home. The journey continues…


Day 1 – Saturday, May 6

We headed out this morning at 8:30 as planned. A big thank you to the send-off team that was there to see us off. They outnumbered the Waverly team members – by far!

The drive was uneventful, which is always a good thing, although it got colder as wen went south. We are spending the night in Nashville, IL where the current temperature is 53° at 10 PM. (It’s 63 in Fridley.) By the time the week ends in Waverly, we might be wishing for more temperatures in the 50’s. Mid to high 80’s looks like what we’ll be working in most of the week.

John, from Grand Rapids, MI, is our advance party and is already in Waverly and will scout out the jobs tomorrow morning with the Inspiritus Construction Manager. That will give us a chance to get started on a couple jobs on Saturday afternoon. It will be great to once again be helping rebuild homes and lives.

Day 2 – Saturday

We arrived in Waverly around 1:00 this afternoon – again with an uneventful drive. John had already scouted out the homes that we will probably be working in. So, once we got all our gear moved into Waverly United Methodist Church, we were able to get a crew started on replacing the insulation in one of those homes and made great progress. Also, some of the team did some grocery shopping and have our meals for the next day all figured out.

We had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and then went back to the church for our daily trip meeting. Shortly after we wrapped that up, our last two team members arrived from Chicago. So, all fourteen of us are now in Waverly and after attending worship tomorrow morning, we’ll get to work.

Day 3 – Sunday

It was a leisurely start to our day. In honor of Mother’s Day, some of the men decided they should do the pancake meal that the women were planning to cook. They did a great job! After breakfast, we attended worship. Then it was our team photo and off to the two jobsites where we will probably spend the rest of the week. After getting the people, the trailers, and most of the tools in the right place, we were ready to work. Luckily, both the houses we are working in are only four blocks from where we are staying and are on the same street, less than a block apart. Not sure if that has every happened before.

In the first house, the insulating was continued by half of the team while the other half got started with the sheetrocking. Most of the sheetrock needs to be replace only 4’ up but that also means making sure that it was cut at the proper height and fixing it if it wasn’t.

The second house needs flooring and trim replaced throughout the house. Prep was done for the flooring and then it was discovered that the flooring is the type that snaps together but needs to be nailed instead which is going to slow things down a bit since it requires a compressor and crown stapler. And with only one stapler a run to Harbor Freight and Lowe’s (40 miles away) was also required. Despite a late start and only one stapler, the team was able to get some flooring down in one room today. With a second stapler, things will go faster tomorrow. The other half of this team is working on the trim which required setup of both the miter saw and the tablesaw, pulling off old trim, and there will be lots of ripping and cutting as this work progresses. But these team members have the skills to do that.

We are all a little mixed up on what day it is since we arrived on a Saturday and worked part of the day then and most of the day today. Tomorrow will be a full day and we should get a lot done.

Day 4 – Monday

It was a great day for working – weatherwise. It was our first full day of work and we continued with the same teams in the two houses. Good progress was made in both with hanging drywall, installing flooring, and trimming out windows. With the amount of work in both of these homes, it looks like this work will continue throughout the week.

Day 5 – Tuesday

We’re calling this a stellar day – all around. The work went well at both homes. We accomplished a lot even though the temperatures reached the upper 80’s. In the afternoon we were joined by Matt Steinhauer, retired pastor from Faith Lutheran where we stayed in 2011 following the Cumberland River flood in Nashville. It was such a joy to see him again. He described his disaster involvement and how he became involved with SPDR. He brought his banjo along and played a few songs for us. What a delight!

Day 6 – Wednesday

It was another stellar day according to the crew chiefs. It also was a lot warmer with temps in the high 80s and high humidity – not quite what us Midwesterners are used to.

Much of the sheetrock has been hung in the one home with only 14 sheets left from the huge stack they started with. This house has an amazing number of rooms, closets, nooks and crannies with nothing straight or level.

In the second home, we’ve installed flooring three different ways – tongue and groove that we nailed in several rooms, snap and click vinyl in the bathroom, and tongue and groove that we glued in the last room that has a cement floor. We should finish all the flooring tomorrow. We’ve also trimmed out the windows and a couple of the doors and also got started installing baseboard. We had an extra team member today as Pastor Matt joined us and helped with the flooring and baseboards. He even learned a few a new skill – coping and mitering corners of the baseboard – not that he’s ever going to do it at his house.

Brenda’s cousin and her husband from Nashville joined us for the evening. It’s always great when family members get an opportunity to connect with the SPDR team members.

Day 7 – Thursday

Our work week is done and today was a great day at both jobsites. All of the available sheetrock was put up in the one home and all the floors were installed in the other home along with some trim, baseboard, and crown molding. A lot of progress in a short time. The homeowners are so pleased.

We had our “beach” party near the short Trace Creek that borders the backyard of one the homes we worked in. We were joined by the homeowners, neighbors, Inspiritus staff, family members, community members, and Pastor Morgan Gordy (Assistant to the Bishop for Disaster Ministry) and others – a wonderful time for fellowship and a great ending to our work week!

Day 8 – Friday

After a great breakfast prepared by the volunteers at the Church of Christ, we said our goodbyes to John, Len, and Rob (and then said goodbye to Len and Rob again when we realized their route was the same up to our first gas stop.) They should have arrived home to Chicago and Grand Rapids by early this evening.

We had a great lunch at a BBQ restaurant in Cape Girardeau. That took a little longer than planned and some slow traffic in St. Louis delayed us awhile which got us into Urbana, IA around 9 PM – about an hour later than we had planned. We spent about an hour gathered together enjoying some fellowship and the headed to our rooms for the night. Sleeping on a real mattress is going to feel nice.

We’ll head out in the morning and hope to be back to St. Philip’s between 12:30 and 1:00 if there are no delays.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 spring SPDR trip to Texas, to assist those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, was cancelled. Despite the many disasters in the last several months, the COVID physical distancing requirements made normal travel and lodging arrangements impossible for SPDR team members which led to no plans made for a fall trip in 2020.

Texas Winter Storm

February 16, 2021
Over the 15 years of the SPDR ministry, we have met many individuals in the southern states that have become our friends and partners. We have also met many disaster survivors that we have assisted to rebuild their homes and lives. For us living in the north country, we know how to survive the cold winters. For our friends in the south it is a real challenge when severe cold weather strikes. Iced roadways, no electricity leading to no heat and lighting, frozen water pipes and and in many cases, lack of food. We ask your prayers for everyone, everywhere suffering from this ongoing weather system that is bringing such hardship to so many.

February 21, 2021 (From Renee’s Facebook page)
It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours. It started in the afternoon after seeing a Facebook post from our Houston friend/partner, Deb Grant, about the shortage of plumbing supplies in Texas due to all of the frozen water pipes last week. Mike and I had a short, social-distanced meeting to figure out what SPDR could do to help. That resulted in a Menards shopping trip yesterday, a Home Depot shopping trip this morning, then cutting pipe and packaging everything in Mike’s garage, an afternoon trip to Menards for more supplies, a stop at Premier Industries (where I work) to weigh the packages (50 and 90 pounds!), a stop at Cartridge World (my other job) to get the UPS shipping labels (Thanks, Jason and Lindsey for the shipping help!), and then a final stop at the UPS facility in Maple Grove to drop off 500 ft. of CPVC and copper tubing and 1040 fittings that should arrive in Houston on Thursday.

February 27, 2021
The plumbing supplies are moving quickly in Texas. They arrived at Deb Grant’s house late yesterday afternoon and by 9:30 this morning a portion of them were in the back of a plumber’s vehicle who is working through First Lutheran Church in Galveston. Within two hours we received a forwarded message from Deb that said, “Hi Deb – This is Gloria (see photo). She is a single mom who also has her elderly mother living with her. Because of the generosity of St. Philip’s, she got the needed parts that prevented her house from having water. Now…she sees the end in sight! Thank you!!!” Also, according to Deb, two other houses are being worked on today in Galveston because they now have the parts needed.

March 7, 2021
The other portion of the plumbing supplies were transported from Deb’s garage (and her ingenious golf cart holding rack) by our ERD partner, Pastor Stacy Stringer, to the River Oaks neighborhood in Conroe, TX. This low-lying neighborhood was severely flooded by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. In October 2019, a SPDR team helped restore five houses here and another team returned a month later to complete the work in one of those houses. On the first trip, one of the homeowners we helped was Wendy. On the second trip, Wendy helped us out by bringing hot chocolate and coffee to our worksite every morning. She is now helping her neighbors by letting them know about the plumbing supplies and providing a place for them to come and pick up what they need. Thank you, Wendy!

March 8, 2021
Expressions of Gratitude

From the Reverend Stacy Stringer – Episcopal Diocese of Texas: “Thank you for sending your JOY down to Texas!”

From Wendy – River Oaks Drive resident: “We are very grateful for our Minnesota friends for always stepping up and helping us. During the Texas winter storms many of my neighbors had problems with their pipes bursting just like everyone else In Texas. We are thankful for the parts of plumbing sent to us by our great friends in Minnesota.”

And from Deb Grant – retired ELCA pastor, partner, and friend: “Water always finds a way. Love speeds the journey. I am grateful for the generosity of those who are willing to be love’s aquaduct. These plumbling supplies were sent from St. Philip’s Disaster Relief in Minnesota to friends helping neighbors in Galveston and Houston. Water always finds a way. Love speeds the journey. The journey continues…”

Desk Project

In late October, a decision was made to use some of the SPDR resources and skills to help students that are distancing learning due by building desks that would give them a dedicated place to study at home. Local schools were contacted and administrators from schools in Fridley, Spring Lake Park, and Columbia Heights requested a total of 50 desks. Watch for updates here on the project.

November 4
After reviewing several different desk designs, a fold up desk was chosen. The first prototype desk was created by one of the SPDR team members. That desk was reviewed and is being refined to ensure the desk is sturdy and easy to fold up. Two different heights of desks will be built.

December 1
With about a dozen work sessions at St. Philip’s and some work at home, 33 volunteers completed 50 desks that are ready for distribution. The work included a lot of sawing, sanding, drilling, painting, and assembly both inside and outside – in temperatures that ranged from 70 to 30 degrees, but no snow. And some winning bids on an online auction resulted in 80 student chairs to go with the desks.

December 18
Seven social workers from the five Fridley schools, North Park in Columbia Heights, and Westwood in Spring Lake Park stopped in at St. Philip’s on December 7 to pick up desks, chairs, and some school supplies that they then delivered to their students. Since then we’ve received some thank yous and photos. One of the students wrote, “I LOVE the desk!!! Thank you, it’s definitely going to help me get some work done.” Since the weather and COVID-19 restrictions make it difficult to continue to build desks the way the first 50 were built, we are looking into alternate plans.