South Carroll sent helping hands to South Carolina this month.
Members of four United Methodist churches formed a work team and went south to renovate two homes damaged by Hurricane Hugo four years ago.
"Church teams go to crisis areas all the time," said the Rev. Richard K. McCullough, pastor of Wesley Freedom United Methodist in Eldersburg. "This is one of the most meaningful forms of ministry, one of service to others who can't pay you back."
Cynthia Reynolds, director of ALIVE Relief Ministries in Berkeley County, S.C., called the mission "a blessing."
"We were so impressed by the sacrifice and love offered from strangers," she said.
Years after Hugo roared into South Carolina, many residents in the state's rural interior still suffer the storm's effects. The repair work was a product of a sister relationship begun by Wesley Freedom United Methodist with St. Stephen Church in Berkeley County after the 1989 storm.
"Many homes in our area were not destroyed but badly damaged," said Ms. Reynolds. "People here have been in the same situation since the storm."
Many of those residents would never recover if not for the kindness of strangers, she said, because, while coastal homes and businesses are recovering, relief efforts in rural areas have lagged.
"A tremendous amount of the [government] relief effort went to the shoreline and ignored the inland," said Mr. McCullough, who has made several trips to aid the restoration efforts.
The pastor exchanged his clerical garb for overalls, and he and his wife, Jill K. Poole, led a caravan south Nov. 7. Three trucks, a car and a van left Eldersburg loaded with tools and construction materials. Many of the travelers had the expertise to help and direct others on the job.
"I was amazed at the amount of work we did in just four days," said Martin Hush, a 72-year-old retiree who has worked in construction all his life. "Several in our group were handy with tools. We all kept busy."
Older, wooden structures and reconditioned trailers in South Carolina were hit hardest by Hugo, said Ms. Reynolds. Owners often were uninsured, elderly or ineligible for most government relief programs.
"Physically, they can't do the work, and they have no money to hire anyone," she said.
The storm also destroyed a huge forest and the lumber industry that many residents depended on for their livelihood.
"Not only were homes destroyed, but people lost the ability to earn money," said Mr. McCullough. "Many have not been able to recover."
Edward Bennett, an elderly resident, was forced to leave his home and move in with family. Without the volunteers and the repair work, he would never have been able to live in his home again.
Through donations, including $500 from the the Wolf Foundation in York, Pa., and benefit sales of everything from soups to apple dumplings, the Methodist church team raised about $4,000 for construction materials. The volunteers paid their own travel, food and lodging expenses.
The volunteers helped the two families rehabilitate homes that the minister called "absolute sieves," full of leaks and drafts.
"You establish a relationship with these people in a few days," said Mr. McCullough. "You don't think about race, culture or social status."
Sarah White, 51 and a Vietnam War veteran, expressed her gratitude to the volunteers by working alongside them. After making rounds to government agencies, Ms. White said, she had "given up hope" and decided that the home she shares with her 13-year-old son would remain damp and cold.
The Maryland team replaced shingles, ceilings and floors, repaired windows, sealed leaks and modernized the kitchen in her home. Winter won't feel so cold now, she said.
"Now, the house is in much better condition; it's like a new building," she said. "I hated to see those people go. They were so personable."
The group gave the family a wheelbarrow and a broom the day before they left. When they returned to clean up the next morning, they found Ms. White and her son finishing that task.
Several team members visited a children's recreation center to present sports equipment and clothing donated by Carroll churches.
"The youth minister started helping six children and now works with 100," said Ms. Poole. "His dream is to turn his program into a week-long, after-school care and tutoring program."
Team members came home with aching muscles and sore backs, but were ready to lend a hand again.
"You come home tired but energized, and you start looking around for someone else who needs help," said Mr. McCullough. "Once you have done this, it's easier to get there again."