Willow, AK – Weekly Report – Aug 17-28, 2020

September 8, 2020

The MDS project in Willow, Alaska was by invitation from the community itself. Volunteers were asked to follow the safety protocols and procedures put in place by MDS to ensure that the communities and people that we serve are protected. As MDS looks to reopen projects, the Benchmarks for Project Startup document will be used to guide the decision making process.


We may be behind in our reporting but the work in Willow is anything but slow. The work has continued at an amazing pace. The crews work together like they have been together for years. A team of five from Pennsylvania, brought a group with skills beyond their years, a lot of energy, and a considerable amount of MDS experience, including two with electrical skills, which was needed. Kendall from Iowa lead the group of Joshua, Janae, Matt “HazMatt”, Matt, and Dervin “Irish” who incidentally is not Irish at all. Joining this team, we had Phil the cowboy and James “JC” from California. Also, an answer to prayer, Duane, from Indiana came on 3 days’ notice to work on plumbing in each of the homes and serve as a Crew Leader. Joining these volunteers as 2nd in Command to the Construction Supervisor-II CCS­, we had Fred. He did a great job managing multiple jobs and crews. 

The 15th we said goodbye to many wonderful volunteers; Merle, Don, Bill, Simon, Ray, Wayde, brothers Donnie and Larry, as well as crew leaders Duane and Maynard. It was an incredible blessing to serve with all of these folks, you could see their heart for Jesus both through their words and the work of their hands. They had a great time together through practical jokes and hard work. It was a delight to have Becky Gochnauer for Lititz on project as she viewed the new CoVid protocols in action. 

We also had a leadership turnover the 22nd, saying goodbye to Bettie and Diane our smiling and very productive crew of Cooks, Diane’s husband Tom, who was a very productive and patient teacher, Gregg, a hammock loving (he wished) Crew Leader and Maredda, the Office Manager who rooted everyone on; we all need cheerleaders and she did a great job. 

Stepping into the staff shoes, or aprons as the case is, we have Marilyn and Betsy producing wonderful aromas in the kitchen. Kent serving in the dual role of CoVid Mitigation Manager and Office Manager. Marilyn’s husband Doug joined the work crew. Dee and Steve graced us with a short visit in Willow. 

Holding down the long-term fort for the entire life of the project, Doug continues on as Construction Supervisor for the length of the project. He kept the crews well supplied this week as he navigated the maze of plumbing pipes and electrical wire. Also, Lavern, an invaluable Long-Term Volunteer and Crew Leader, has shown great ability and is an incredible asset to MDS as he serves these 2 months in Alaska as part of an 8-month commitment. Michele is handling the grant and facilitating the work of the project overall as the Project Director for the month of August. 

Work continued on in a variety of ways on all seven jobs. With an UMCOR grant in place we are able to do more for each property than originally anticipated for this project. New builds at Josh and Rose, Keith, Ned and Erica, Ron and Chris, received kitchen cabinets and countertops, electrical and plumbing supplies as we go beyond “weathering in” to doing electrical and plumbing rough in, and some interior work. Crews are also busy installing sheetrock or other wall coverings to move the recovery along further than expected. Two of our homeowners, Josh & Rose, as well as Keith were able to receive a well thanks to Griffins Well Drilling’s generosity. In a time when contractors are unavailable in a busy and short building season this was a miracle.  

Buck and Ashley, after receiving a roof in previous weeks, also received new kitchen cabinets and countertops. Lori’s house has made good progress reaching the all “weathered in” status with all the siding and trim complete. Interior walls have also been framed and are in place at Lori’s.  

The weekend of the 22nd saw a local group of Mennonite Contractors from Sterling, AK come in and build a 20 x 24 girders to roof metal addition to a trailer house in 1 ½ days for Ben Daniels. Finally, Ben and his family of four children will have a warm place to weather the cold Alaska winter. It was incredible to see! In addition, before they left the project, Bettie and Diane enjoyed a shopping trip to provide gifts for the children. 

In addition to purchasing cabinets for Keith’s, the crews took a special interest and pushed towards completion of his house, installing the cabinets and lights and working in his bathroom. Keith is special to this project as we uphold him in prayer through his health challenges and we all want to see his home finished by the time we leave Willow. 

We have seen the hand of God moving in this Willow project, from the miracle of salvation, refreshing of faith, special friendships, talented volunteers, along with the beauty that surrounds us. These are a very special group of homeowners that we get to serve. Thank you to the many volunteers that committed to this project, donors that made this project possible, local partners and businesses. Special thanks to The Rock Church who have made us part of the family in Willow, and to those of you praying for us. 

Blessings, 

Michele, Doug, Kent, Marilyn, Betsy, Lavern, Fred, and Duane