Elmhurst locals donate to Lousiana flooding victims via Chaplain’s Office

Student worker Sarah Fread collects donations for drive (Photo by Stefan Carlson)

From Aug. 30-Sept. 7, the Chaplain’s Office hosted a supply drive for the victims of the flooding in Louisiana.

The drive was spearheaded by Laura Bjerga, scheduling coordinator for communications and public affairs.

“I heard about the flooding on the news,” she said. “I turned to Carl, my husband, and said, ‘We need to do something.’”

The Bjerga’s immediately reached out to their son Kyle, an EC graduate and the Associate Pastor at Cityview Community Church in Elmhurst. They told him about their plan to collect supplies, such as bottled water, clothing, bedding, diapers, and towels, for the flood victims.

Kyle conveyed his enthusiasm for the college’s involvement with the food drive, thus seizing the opportunity to help those in need.

“I thought it was a great idea for the Elmhurst Community to be involved [in] helping with the needs of those in Louisiana,” he said in an email interview. “Our church motto is ‘Life on mission,’ and this was a perfect opportunity to live on mission by helping those who have been affected by such a tragedy.”

In order to collect as many donations as possible, they reached out to two other churches in Elmhurst — West Suburban Community Church and Grace Bible Church — as well as Elmhurst College.

For Laura, including EC in the collection drive, “just made sense.” Her family’s connection to Elmhurst goes back a long way. Laura has worked at Elmhurst for the past 17 years and although Kevin no longer attends the school, he is still present on campus. He has worked with Cru and Athletes in Action in addition to serving as a representative of Cityview Community Church on campus.

When the Bjerga’s approached Reverend Scott Matheney, the chaplain at Elmhurst College, with their project he welcomed the invitation as an excellent service opportunity for the EC community.

“It is in our nature to respond to need,” Matheney commented. “Often, though, it is hard to know how to respond. That is something we have to learn and figure out.”

The supply drive gave students, faculty, and staff a chance to respond to a great need, and they responded “generously” noted Karen Vicary, the administrative assistant in the Chaplain’s Office, where the supplies were being collected.

“One EC first-year’s family brought supplies with them to our Meet ‘n’ Greet at the Chaplain’s House,” she said. “Sue Riley, a faculty member, brought in a ton of donations as well. She hosted a party over Labor Day weekend and asked guests to bring supplies for the drive.”

Junior Sarah Fread was among those who donated to the supply drive.

“I had stuff in my dorm room that I didn’t need,” she said. “The drive was the perfect place to drop it off.”

Vicary thought the drive went very well.

I would say we had around 30 people come and drop off supplies over the course of the drive,” she said. “On the last day of the drive, I even had to stay late in the office so people could bring in donations.”

There were so many donations collected from Elmhurst that the Bjerga’s had to make two trips to collect them all. The final pick up was made on Thursday, Sept. 8.

After the drive was over, the Bjerga’s prepared to take the supplies down to Louisiana. They had to rent a 12 ft. moving van to hold all the supplies. Carl and one of his friends made the 18 hr. drive to Baton Rouge on Friday, Sept. 9.

“My husband had not originally planned on driving the supplies to Louisiana,” said Laura. “He had heard that the Moody Bible Institute was collecting supplies for the flood victims as well, and he went to them to ask if they could take our donations with them when they took theirs to Louisiana.”

Carl arrived at Moody only to discover that the school had no way to get their donations to Louisiana. One thing led to another, and by the time the conversation ended, Carl had agreed to drive the van with all the supplies.

“He can’t wait to eat all that naughty Louisiana food,” laughed his wife.

The Bjerga’s have high hopes for the project.

“Hopefully what we did will just show people in Louisiana that there are others who are praying for them and who want to meet the tangible needs they have now,” said Kyle. “Ultimately we want them to experience the love of Jesus through these resources.”