BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – To them…it’s a God thing.
Fully retired Jim and Betty Posz travel about five months out of the year in their 40-foot Sundance RV, but their travels are almost always geared around giving back to others throughout the country.
As part of the Methodist Church’s NOMAD program, which stands for Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service, the couple takes about six weeks out of each year and works on projects such as home rehabs, church camp rehabs, Boy Scout camps, and other projects throughout the country. They can also do work on disaster recovery projects, but typically those jobs don’t come around until a couple years after the disaster strikes, when all the high priority work is done and out of the way.
The NOMADS are a group of mostly retired members of the Methodist Church from around the country who work with the organization to pick projects to work on while they are enjoying their retirement traveling the country in their mobile homes. The group now has between 900 and 1,000 members across the country.
“We’re humbled and proud of this organization,” Jim said Thursday “On the disaster projects there may be funds from FEMA or some local funds. So the NOMADs coordinator puts together a funding package. We get some funding from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and other federal outlets or from UMCOR, which is the Methodist internal fundraising mechanism.”
For the past two years Jim and Betsy have planned their RV travels around stopping points where help is needed, the most recent was a trip to North Carolina where new windows and a new ADA ramp and porch were built at a church camp. And earlier this year they helped rebuild some homes in Ottumwa.
“That’s where I found out I like an impact drill for putting in screws,” Betty said.
When planning their travels with the camper, the two will go onto the NOMADs website and find where work is being done and workers are needed and then plan their trips around the spots where they’d like to stop and help. The next trip in the spring will be a project that the two have signed up to lead. They’ve been involved with the program for the past two years.
Jim said the work isn’t hard and the group is very safety conscious.
The normal work week is four days from 8 a.m. to 4 or 5 with breaks and lunch, but the group has had weeks where they go five days if other factors are in place such as other available labor, weather, etc.
He said putting in pools or using backhoes are not really in the scope of what the group does, but they can put in the cement or sidewalks around the pools, put up and paint the fencing and that kind of thing.
The average member of the RV groups is 65 to 70 years old so they don’t go 12 hours a day and they stop for devotions through the day, but they have a focused approached to what needs to be done.
“We’re safety conscious. We’re not going to do 12 hour days but we have some flexibility. Everything has its own rewards and this fits into travel,” Jim said.
The one we just did in Ottumwa we got $15,000 from the Wapello County Community Foundation and they just said here and they paid for it. But we do some fundraising internally and if the coordinators find we have this great project but no funds, sometimes NOMAD will put funds in to pay for it. We just had a national meeting where the group raised $53,000 to have some funds for projects.
“Usually we come up with what we need,” Jim said. “The sponsoring agency has the power tools or some of the larger things we need, but usually I’ll take a skill saw with me.”
Betsy said the projects go smoother and labor is used more efficiently if everything is ready when the RV teams show up.
“When you get there you want to have all the stuff there, then you’re ready to hit the ground running,” Betty said.
Jim said the NOMADS will also ask the sponsoring agencies to have an extra long list in the event one part of the project would get hung up.
“We want a long to-do list so we always have something we could be working on. If we don’t get to everything, we don’t get to everything. But we need to be able to shift to plan B, so we always tell them to go long. On our Ottumwa job in April and May they gave us 20 things they needed to get completed and we got 18 of them done.”
He said if the projects are finalized there is always cleaning that can be done, but Betty said she’s learned how to run a chop saw and she’d rather do that than clean.
“I can put the chop saw on my resume now,” she said.
Betty had been volunteering as a treasurer for the Methodists’ women’s group, but said those meetings don’t work very well with the timing of the projects. She said she likes helping the women’s group but this volunteering allows her to travel with Jim and the couple’s dog and cat.
“It’s retirement with a purpose,” Jim said. “Another couple from our church who is retired got on board and didn’t want to go back to punching a clock but wanted to feel like they were accomplishing things. They were too active for cards and hooked up with this program and have been involved for about five years now.”
“Since we enjoy traveling, this fits into it. We can take our pets with us and this has kind of worked out for everyone,” Betty said. “Besides, there’s so much organizing to be done here at home, and my way of dealing with that is to just leave town.”
More information on the program can be found at www.nomadsumc.org or by calling 1-866-466-6237.