Answering the Call: HarvestCall volunteers arrive in Jackson County

AC HarvestCall volunteers unload house trim to be painted by the team


A big group of Apostolic Christian HarvestCall volunteers arrived in Jackson County on Sunday, Jan. 10,  for a three-month work project.

About 60 of them are on the ground, with 17 long-termers that came in a week ahead, and will be here for the duration, and roughly 40 that will stay about a week and then be replaced by a fresh set of workers. That cycle will continue until the mission is finished at the end of March.

With just four workdays under their belts the following Thursday, they’d already set the foundations of four new houses – they’re building five in all to replace homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael. They’ll be repairing 18 more over the course of their stay.

Most are living dorm-style at the Blue Springs Christian Camp in Marianna. They have a kitchen and some volunteers are assigned to feeding the workers hot breakfasts and suppers, and providing them sack lunches to take on site so they can keep working right up until meal time and get right back to it afterward.

The North Florida Inland Long Term Recovery Group, which serves the storm survivors of Jackson and Calhoun counties, said in a press release that LTR is “thrilled” to welcome HarvestCall here.

The mission team has existed for about 22 years, according to Tim Slagel, who, with his wife Barb Slagel, serves as ministry coordinator. The group’s corporate office is in West Lafayette, Indiana, but Slagel said team members come from all over the United States to help on disaster-related projects, mostly across the South, and mostly in the winter months.

“It’s an honor to serve,” Slagel said. “It’s a ministry and we give God the praise for the fact that we’re able to answer the call that we’ve all felt.”

Many of the volunteers are senior retirees but some are college-agers or farmers and construction professions from areas of the country where extreme winter weather can sideline them from time to time. Instead of staying idle, they jump in to help with disasters in the South, where winter is usually comparatively mind.

Slagel said many of the volunteers have been with the core mission team for several years and that a large number of them come from the Midwest.

They’re backed up by a food bank in the Midwest that volunteered a lot of the food they brought to feed themselves while they’re here, Slagel said, and they’re enjoying the luxury of a big kitchen at Blue Springs. “That’s one of the hardest things to find when you’re trying to coordinate a project,” he said, speaking of the kitchen and other accommodations there. “This is a beautiful set up here.”

The team has communal meals most days, before and after their work ends, but they skip the big 6 p.m. supper meal on Wednesdays in favor of a church service.

As in this project, AC HarvestCall usually comes in a year or two after a community has experienced extreme damage, giving time for state and federal programs to help as many as possible before they arrive to take care of those still struggling.

The single biggest reason they focus on helping in the Southern state, he said, is the weather, in part because that’s a prime time to gather volunteers with construction know-how and the time to help.