LAKE CHARLES, La. (KT) – Most high school seniors take a trip to the beach after graduation. Leah Strecker took a trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to help flood-ravaged victims through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief.
The 18-year-old from Shepherdsville, who is three times younger than the next youngest member of her team, doesn’t back away from challenges. She spent most of Thursday putting tarps on roofs with Gordon Hayward, her grandfather.
She has more than earned the respect of the rest of her Disaster Relief teammates because of a relentless work ethic, sweet spirit and quick wit.
“We just love her,” said fellow DR worker Carrie Fondaw. “I’m telling you, she can come off with some one-liners. She is so fun and so talented. She plays the piano, violin and has an awesome voice. She and her grandpa sing for the morning devotional and it puts goose bumps down my arms.”
Leah and her grandfather were on tarp duty Thursday, but she was tearing out drywall on Wednesday. She’s enjoying the experience of her first Disaster Relief deployment. It won’t be her last one though.
“I think it’s the most amazing group of people,” she said. “Everybody has such a unique story and life experience. As a younger person hearing that it’s not only inspiring but really motivating. I definitely want to do more of these in the future.”
Her grandfather encouraged her to sign up for Disaster Relief training since it was in the area where she lived back in February before she turned 18. Strecker has received DR training in chainsaw safety and tarping.
“When this call came out, I was really excited,” she said. “It’s such an amazing opportunity.”
Strecker, a member of Mercy Hill Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, is not a rookie when it comes to this kind of work either. She has worked often with her grandfather who does apartment maintenance and has flipped a few houses. “Getting the opportunity to use those skills for God is awesome,” she said.
Fondaw said you can see the glee in her grandfather’s eyes when she is working or singing.
“I wish she was my granddaughter and I have eight wonderful grandchildren,” she said. “She’s really sweet, very genuine. She’s like a granddaughter to me.”
Strecker said “getting to love on people who are so tired and exhausted” has been uplifting. “The people we’ve worked for are so grateful for the help. Some of them don’t have the money or the physical ability to do the work themselves. Knowing someone is here beside them, loving on them with the grace and peace we can give them.”
She has also bonded with the women on her DR team, “especially Sandy and Carrie because my grandmother (Earlene Hayward) has worked with them before. They took me under their wing and gave me some tips. They can tell when I need a hug and they hug me.”
Strecker is a graduate of Bullitt Central High School where she also piled up 64 college hours. She is going to attend Northern Kentucky University in the fall and study data science.