Highland Academy students aid community in flood recovery efforts

On August 21, 2021, heavy rainfall in Waverly and McEwen, Tenn., resulted in a widespread flash flood across the area. The rainfall, which reached a high-record of 17-inches, damaged more than 500 homes, some of which were completely destroyed. Highland Academy students went out to the community to aid in the recovery process.

Will Lebrenz, chaplain and Bible teacher at Highland Academy, organized the relief efforts. The idea came after one student in Lebrenz’ class requested to pray for his grandfather who had been affected by the flood. Lebrenz says that upon hearing the prayer request, students were eager to help.

“[Students] love being involved,” Lebrenz said. “Anytime that I’m teaching a Bible class, I’ll stress to them ‘hey, it’s important to help people in your community.’ So, they were like, ‘let’s not just talk about it. Let’s do it.’”

Highland Academy students went out to help on two different occasions. On September 6, Labor Day, the senior class went to residential homes to clean up debris and pull-out damaged appliances and furniture. The team helped from morning till afternoon.

Another team was organized to go help on September 27. This time, it was the freshman class. The freshman group spent the entire day pulling sheetrock, insulation, door frames, and flooring from a damaged house in Waverly.

Highland Academy Freshman Nathan Hillebert says the hardest part of the job was prying up ruined hard wood flooring. However, he thinks it was worth it at the end because it helped someone.

“I think it is important that we go out and help the community because we are told in the Bible that we are to love are neighbors,” Hillebert said. “Whether that is opening the door for someone and saying hello or ripping out drywall; we should do our best to help others in need. …If everybody tries to do that, we can make a huge difference.”

Although the flood took place more than a month ago, Lebrenz says there is still a lot of work to be done in the area. Though no specific dates have been scheduled, he adds that Highland Academy will prepare to take another group if their help is requested again.

“Our mission is to build Christ like characters and lifelong learners,” Lebrenz said. “So, [students] are learning to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Like Jesus reached out to us, we are reaching out to our community.”