Cobbers clean up Duluth

Nineteen Concordia students from Habitat for Humanity and their advisor helped with flood relief in Duluth this past weekend through the college’s Habitat for Humanity.

The students arrived Friday night and slept on the floor of the downtown YMCA. Saturday morning the work began at two locations. One team removed flood damaged items from a house, while the other team worked alongside an elderly couple, one of whom is recovering from a recent stroke. When the first team finished their project, they joined the team at the couple’s home.

Although Bryce Wang, a senior at Concordia and first-time volunteer, felt he accomplished more at the first location, he enjoyed working more at the second location.

“I haven’t seen someone that appreciative,” said Wang.

Colleen Kelly, a junior, found her first experience with Habitat very rewarding, but emotionally difficult.

“I couldn’t imagine the feeling of losing all my stuff,” she said.

But she enjoyed working alongside the elderly couple.

Each fall, Habitat makes a trip to help others in need. In 2011, the team went to Minot to help with the flood relief.

Duluth was chosen as the destination this year because of the flood this past summer, said Jordan Elton, co-organizer of the trip along with Brianna Johnson.

The team connected with Ilsa Peterson, volunteer and community coordinator of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota to arrange the volunteering.

“Peterson is a superstar. I’ve never met someone so enthusiastic in my entire life,” said Chelsi Argabright, co-chair of Concordia’s Habitat board.

“The problem is the Duluth flood did not receive much attention,” said Searle Swedlund, the Habitat faculty advisor who accompanied the group. The Concordia team was the first group of volunteers to work with the flood relief through Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota.

The biggest difference between Minot and Duluth is the amount of damage and lack of help, said Swedlund. In Duluth, the flood damage is of a “catastrophic proportion,” he said.

Overall the teamswer able to help those in need.

“They were excellent. Both groups were really helpful,” Peterson said.

Noah Ford-Dunker, Habitat’s publicity coordinator, appreciates that Habitat is people- and service-oriented.

“It brings people together and Habitat gives you an opportunity to show your faith,” said Ford-Dunker.”

The team explored Duluth Saturday evening–visiting downtown, touring the William A. Irvin Haunted Ship and spending time together at the YMCA. At the end of the day of work, the volunteers had time to reflect, by sharing their highs and lows.

“It’s important to connect how and why we serve,” Johnson said.

Kelly’s favorite part was bonding with the team at the YMCA.

“After working with (the volunteers) for two full days…you come away with 19 new friends,”  Johnson said.

For many of the students, it was their first trip with Habitat. Before the weekend began, Wang did not know what to expect.

“I am not affiliated (with a church) so I thought I’d feel out of place, but I definitely wasn’t,” said Wang. “I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think it was going to be that much fun.”

According to the Habitat for Humanity Lake Agassiz Chapter newsletter, in 1991, Concordia College formed the Habitat for Humanity college chapter. Concordia’s campus pastor at the time, Pastor Phil Holtan, saw how much interest was generated from the college chapter, and decided a local Habitat for Humanity affiliate should be started. Eight months later the Lake Agassiz chapter was formed.

Each year, Habitat gives students several opportunities to serve. There will be a weekend trip in the spring and seven trips over spring break. The trip locations for 2013 were announced Nov. 4 and the sign-ups are Nov. 17.

This article was written by contributing writer Kaia Lunde, Concordia 2013. You can contact her at

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