<b>SCHOOLS | </b>By Katie Murdoch Herald writer
EDMONDS — Grace Bowen has grown up watching her mother, Cindi Bowen, a pastor and chaplain, prepare for disaster relief trips, from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Ala., last spring.
This time, Grace Bowen, 13, gets to go too.
The mother, daughter and members of their church, Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, are in West Liberty, Ky., helping with disaster relief efforts following the tornadoes that tore across the Midwest and Southern states in early March. Efforts include bringing school supplies to a makeshift classroom in the city.
“I’ve always seen my mom go and seen her pictures,” Grace said. “I hope to take away from this the feeling of helping kids in their school who have had their home taken away.”
Her mother looks forward to seeing Grace lend her talents.
“She’s great with kids and a natural friend,” Cindi Bowen said.
A dozen members of Westgate Chapel are in Kentucky. The Church of God Chaplains Commission requested their help. Eleven of the volunteers left April 9 and met up with another member already there. The team will stay for as long as their work and school schedules allow, with the last of the group scheduled to return April 21.
West Liberty has a population of 3,000 and is 80 percent destroyed, Bowen said.
The relief team is working with a church whose members converted a warehouse into an elementary school to house 300 students.
Grace led efforts to collect school supplies at her school, Edmonds Heights K-12. She and her mother emailed teachers who donated and encouraged students to help too. Students wrote letters and notes to West Liberty families, which Grace will deliver.
Ellis Jones, 14, also an Edmonds Heights student who is going on the trip, looks forward to helping people. He has volunteered in Uruguay where he helped build a playground for an orphanage.
“I think it’s great to get a community to help and go to places they’ve never seen,” Ellis said.
A donation of $300 answered the group’s prayers and means it will have gas money in West Liberty and can afford to ship the school supplies.
Volunteers also will go door-to-door offering to help locals clean up debris, including fallen tree branches.
“There’s nothing more amazing than watching what can happen when you do something as simple as removing trees,” Bowen said.
Volunteers will stay in donated travel trailers, an improvement from warehouse floors and church pews where Bowen and previous relief teams have slept. A Laundromat within walking distance means not having to wash clothes in sinks or showers.
“You come home and you appreciate your home, bed and roof,” Bowen said.
Valerie Carlson, of Lynnwood, will go and prepare meals for the group over two hot plates and a barbecue.
“I wasn’t planning on going,” Carlson said. “But God pounded on my heart and I couldn’t shake it.”
Carlson hopes to walk away with a greater compassion for people and a different outlook on people in need.
“We get so comfortable in our warm homes,” she said. “These people don’t have a home.”