Tyler Nordblom, a high school junior from State College, Pa., found a way to do a graduation project that made a huge difference in the lives of a family from Florida recovering from Hurricane Irma.
After seeing the terrible devastation and flooding in the news coverage of Hurricane Irma, Tyler decided to help some of the hurricane victims as his project. State College Area High School students are required to do a special project as part of the requirements for graduation.
Tyler wanted the project to be more personal and not just donate to disaster relief. He talked to Bishop Paull Spring, NALC Bishop Emeritus, who, like Tyler, is a member of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, an NALC congregation in State College. Bishop Spring put him in touch with the NALC Disaster Response Team.
Tyler quickly came to know of a family that was in great need of help, prayer and encouragement. NALC Disaster Response connected him with Barbara Warren, a member of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, an NALC congregation in Winter Haven, Fla.
The Warrens’ home was destroyed by a large tree that fell and crushed it during Hurricane Irma. Barbara Warren lived with her husband, Vincent, a disabled vet. He needs constant care for many daily functions, and Barbara could supply that help in their home with necessary equipment and systems in place to help.
Their daughter, Jennifer, lived with them in order to help with the constant care. Jennifer has two daughters who are still in school. After the tree fell on the house, the family moved to a nearby hotel, for what they hoped would be a short stay until the house was repaired.
After a few days, it was evident they could not care for Vincent without the room and equipment in the house. He needed to go to a veterans hospital in Tampa, Fla. — over an hour away. After 57 years of marriage, the couple would be physically separated during this very stressful time of their lives.
Jennifer and her two children were in one hotel room and Barbara in another. Daily conveniences were no more, uncertainties were plentiful, and many things were now very difficult. Cooking was not easy and family meals were a chore. Eating out for every meal is expensive and something the family had definitely not planned for. The family was first scheduled to be in the hotel until the end of October and then it stretched through Thanksgiving and until the end of the year.
Tyler was on board with helping the Warren family as soon as he heard their story. During this time of struggle, Tyler was concerned about getting the family funds and gift cards to help them as quickly as possible. He sent Target gift cards almost immediately to help pay for replacement school supplies and needs the family had.
Tyler asked what their favorite restaurants were and sent gift cards and funds for their favorites: IHOP, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway and more.
Barbara said the girls would get home from school and they wouldn’t know what to do for dinner, and then they started getting these gift cards. What a bright spot in the middle of a tough and lonely situation!
Then there were gift cards for Home Depot and Visa gift cards (they were such a blessing to fill up the gas tank). The cash donations were compiled and sent to the family.
Tyler was asked how he started raising funds for a family in need. He explained that he raised money within his home congregation, in his community, and within his own family. He started by standing up in front of his congregation and giving a short bio on the family and explaining what he was hoping to accomplish. He encouraged people to ask questions and sought answers. “A lot of people decided after talking with me a little bit that they wanted to help out the Warren family, so they made donations,” Tyler said.
He also wrote a letter and took it to different community locations, like McDonald’s, IHOP, and others, and received donations from the businesses. He spent a lot of time and work on these letters and his speeches so that people would understand the need of the Warrens and would want to give.
Tyler’s family pitched in to donate funds and time to visit community locations, ship gift cards, and keep records of all the donations.
Tyler raised nearly $3,000, and NALC Disaster Response matched some of those donations, so the family received about $5,000.
“Before this project really got under way, I had a goal in mind of raising about $3,000, and my mom thought that this was a bit crazy. But I had something in my mind, and it paid off.” Tyler said. “The generosity of everyone that donated was very pleasing and amazing to see.”
“When I was going door to door in my neighborhood, there was one gentleman that said he would be glad to give again if more money was needed for Christmas,” Tyler said.
Tyler said he learned a lot of things during this project. One of them is that you feel much better when you do something out of the goodness of your heart and not because you have to. He also learned that when you put your mind to something, you can achieve that goal no matter what it is.
Tyler said he would not hesitate to do something like this again — and surely the Warrens would agree that he should. Barbara Warren expressed great gratitude to this young man that she and her family have never met. She enjoyed the fact that he is from Pennsylvania, as she is as well. Tyler’s generosity and concern have meant a lot to a family in great need.
Tyler is an example of NALC Disaster Response in action. He responded to Christ’s call to care for a neighbor in need, even when the neighbor is hundreds of miles away, in hurricane-ravaged Florida.