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Posted on Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Camp Take Notice returns after helping with Hurricane Sandy cleanup

By John Counts


Camp Take Notice volunteers have a working lunch while helping with storm clean-up efforts in New Jersey.

Courtesy of

Former residents of Camp Take Notice returned to the Ann Arbor-area Friday after more than a week spent in New Jersey participating in Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts.

The group, which consisted of seven former camp residents and three volunteers, assisted in cleaning up five homes in Brick, N.J.

"(Some of the) homes had just been destroyed ... completely and utterly ruined," said Peggy Lynch, board member for MISSION, the non-profit behind Camp Take Notice. spoke with Lynch and two former Camp Take Notice residents via phone Friday afternoon as the group was on the road back to Michigan. They all agreed it had been a great experience.

"It was a really rewarding and heartwarming thing to do," said Glenn Lieding, a former resident of Camp Take Notice. "We did what we could while we were there."

Three of the New Jersey residents they helped were elderly, including veterans from World War II and the Korean War. The homes had suffered from flooding a few inches to 10 feet deep, Lynch said. The Camp Take Notice volunteers assisted in throwing out ruined furniture, molding and cabinets and took part in other demolition-type activities.

"(The residents) were very grateful," Lynch said. "They couldn't have done this heavy work by themselves."

Richard Gillespie admitted to being a little tired Friday afternoon.

"It was very rewarding," he said, but also "very sad."

Gillespie said he has experience with construction, but learned a lot while helping out.

"We did a lot of the demolition that needed to be done," Gillespie said.

They worked in the cold and slept in the cold, he added. Staying at a tent city in New Jersey was "an experience in itself," said Gillespie, who said he eventually had to be hospitalized for one night during the stay because he came down with pneumonia — but not before he finished up his work.

"I got it done and said, 'Take me to the hospital,'" he said.

The group left for the storm-ravaged East Coast Friday, Nov. 16 and stayed the night at a church in Pennsylvania before arriving in New Jersey the next day.

While in New Jersey, the group stayed at a tent city in Lakewood Township, an encampment similar to Camp Take Notice, which existed near M-14 and Wagner Road before residents were evicted by the state this past summer. The tent city in New Jersey also has a contentious past. The township has tried to evict the roughly 80 residents who have lived on its land for five years, though a judge has ruled against immediately removing the homeless there.

A 2010 lawsuit between the township and the camp remains unresolved, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Camp Take Notice group headed to the camp in three vans, one cargo van belonging to a volunteer that mostly hauled equipment and two rented mini-vans carrying the people, Lynch said. MISSION raised $2,500 for the effort.

Lieding, who is also homeless, was proud of his help with the clean-up efforts.

"We helped several families recover from the disaster," he said.

Lieding said he one of the New Jersey residents they helped was a man who served in the Navy during World War II before attending clown college, Lieding said.

"He has a lot of clown memorabilia," Lieding said, some of which was ruined, but most of which was salvageable.

The man's house had 6 to 8 inches of water in it after the storm and a lot of the man's furniture had to be thrown out and his appliances were destroyed.

"He was grateful," Lieding said.

Camp Take Notice posted about the volunteer effort on its blog, which you can read here.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Thu, Nov 29, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

To Jennifer Huston: The "attention-starved organizers" can be seen in the group picture on CTN's wordpress blog. ( "NJ bound travelers and supporters gather before heading off"). Most of the people pictured are not homeless. If you are at all familiar with CTN, you would know who's who. Again, this trip was merely a publicity stunt perpetrated by the organizers of this group. It is unfortunate that they attached the CTN name to the venture and exploited the homeless in doing so.


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

You don't suppose a little legal discussion as in how the NJ tent city has delayed eviction via court action took place? Lessons learned, lessons passed.

John Beck

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

How about cleaning up in Ypsilanti or here in A2? How about scrubbing the graffiti off the overpasses or buildings in downtown A2. And they have time to go to the East Coast because they don't have productive jobs here. If I didn't have rent to pay I could go and help out too.


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

Hats off to the CTN group that assisted in the clean-up efforts. Several commenters asked why they returned to A2? Because that's where the support is. I no longer live in MI, but I can tell you based on where I live today A2 is one of the most supportive cities in the country for the "down on your luck" crowd. Probably too supportive based on what I saw during my last visit to Ann Arbor earlier in the year. My wife and I were panhandled at least a half dozen times during a walk around the relatively small downtown. The heckling from the CTN types hanging out in Liberty Plaza was disturbing as we walked towards the Michigan Theater. The whole scene is not welcoming to visitors, but if you're a panhandler or street person it's great. Everything is relative, I suppose.

Gina Poe

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 3:36 a.m.

Voter Score: 0 Gina Poe 10:29 PM on 11/25/2012 One of the volunteers, currently homeless, came to our Ann Arbor Seventh Day Adventist church service yesterday and told us stories of their volunteer efforts to help several elderly New Jersey homeowners live safely in their own homes after the superstorm. He was eloquent, sincere, and upbeat. I am awed that someone who is currently homeless would so generously donate his time, energy and skills to help those who have homes remain in them. The spirit of volunteerism displayed by this heroic group reminds me of John Kennedy's words: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." You honor us, Camp Take Notice, through your service. May God and our community bless you.

martini man

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 12:15 a.m.

As I sit here all warm and cozy at my computer, spewing my bile .. I seemed to have missed who paid for these saints to go to the east coast and help save the victims of Sandy ?? Like one poster mentioned ..Why didn't they stay there and set up a CTN East ??? Any way this goes, it's great spin- fodder for the liberal agenda. Ya just gotta love 'em. Hopefully they helped fend off the robbers and looters who are preying on the victims and their damaged homes. It's a mess out there with the looting and crime, and the liberal media is hushing it up. Oh well ..time for another martini and to crank up the furnace a notch or two.


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 2:47 a.m.

Martini, just because a webpage isn't spewing hate-filled nonsense and claiming to be Christian and Patriotic doesn't mean it's liberal. In fact, and someone correct me if I am wrong, has consistently endorsed Republican's for office. Soooo.... maybe reconsider your comment in light of reality.... I'm not sure how something so Conservative can also have a liberal agenda. Or better yet, just stop watching Fox News. You'll be a better person for it.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

Meanwhile, here in tranquil Ann Arbor, thousands of nameless homeless were silently burrowing their way into the secret heart of society, awaiting the day for orders from above to strike the fatal blow to the American Way.

Ricardo Queso

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

If they were truly sincere they would not have sought publicity for their efforts. Shame on the CTN honcho's for exploiting the homeless!

Jennifer Huston

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

Publicity isn't so bad. It brings donations to do the work. It lets folks know about the amazing efforts of the Brick Hurricane Relief crew that CTN worked with (and may bring them some needed support.) True, it could be self -serving but it is rarely so simple or black and white.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

What I don't understand is why the taxpayers are chipping in for housing vouchers for people who are quite clearly able to be productive members of society - even doing noble deeds (for taxpayers from other states). But they can't be troubled to use the safety nets already in existence, or even to find work at all. Their sense of entitlement is a little too much to tolerate. And the constant attention from this blog makes me wonder if this is solely a political story.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

The hateful comments on this story are truly sad. It seems that some people just have to disparage the homeless no matter what. Why would anyone choose to sleep in the cold if there were a way for them to earn enough to rent a place to live ? I only hope that some day the people who post these hateful comments find themselves in a situation, through no fault of their own - perhaps due to illness or loss of a job - and have to live in a tent city. Then they might not be so quick to judge. I commend the occupants of Camp Take Notice for going to help the victims of Sandy. How many of the people who post the hateful comments have done the same? I'm guessing not one.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

To tom swift jr: The pictures at CTN's wordpress blog ( show equipment (e.g. generator, propane heaters) purchased by MISSION with donor's contributions for use at CTN.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

While I certainly applaud the efforts of the seven Camp Take Notice residents to assist with Hurricane Sandy cleanup, I wonder if Mr. Counts (the article's author) is keeping equally close tabs on the approximately 60 or so other Camp Take Notice residents and will report on their activities. More specifically, I am interested to see whether Mr. Counts and will report on any negative activities that these former CTN residents are involved in. As the crime and courts reporter, he must surely be aware if any of these residents have been involved in any illegal activities. I am still waiting for the follow-up story on the unregistered sex offender that was living in the camp. Also, any word on the CTN resident that died at the camp this past summer- perhaps the cause of death? These seem like equally important stories for the crime and courts reporter to pursue.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

Oh, brother.....more fodder for the haters......


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

as evidenced by the number of times I'm getting voted down. I expected this. TYPICAL.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

I see it this way: doing something productive, even when no one will pay you for it, is a sign of character. something akin to integrity: doing the right thing even when no one is looking. if you were unemployed and no one would hire you, would you sit on your tush all day, or go do something good/active even if you got no money?

tom swift jr.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

I say we take this fantastic system of "vote up"/"vote down" and turn it into a REAL competition of good vs. evil. Let's award the "winner" a share of the click money that earns, and let's tar and feather the "loser" and ride them out of town on a rail.... By golly, THAT would get the old juices flowing and assure that everyone clicks on these pages time and time again! It's a win/win... (well, except for that guy on the rail....)


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

From "The mission of MISSION: Michigan Itinerant Shelter System-Interdependent Out of Necessity is to support and help establish rotating tent cities for homeless people. " It is obvious that CTN's efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy were no more than a publicity stunt. Donations that were made in earnest to assist the homeless in Michigan were instead used to support the capricious whims of the attention-starved organizers of the group. Shame on you CTN.

Jennifer Huston

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 2:19 a.m.

As I understand it donations were earmarked for this trip. For this purpose. I imagine some things (like the generator) were purchased for CTN and "borrowed" for this trip, but I know there were ways to donate specifically toward this project so I don' t see it as taking away from the donations given to to homeless here in Michigan. Maybe by spreading the word it will bring more donations in. And I imagine those that went benefited from the trip in ways it may be hard to measure so one could argue that donations used for the trip DID assist the homeless in Michigan. Not sure who "attention-starved organizers" are, but it doesn't sound like anyone was forced to go.

tom swift jr.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Peter, where in that article did you read that funds donated to Mission were used in this effort? Show me that quote, would you?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

Yet they can't get jobs and support themselves.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

. . . says someone who clearly never drove by CTN (I did on a daily basis) and saw numerous of its residents waiting at the nearby bus stop, wearing employers' uniforms (e.g., McDonalds). One of the most persistent myths about the homeless is that they are lazy and unemployed. In many, many instances that is not the case. But it is understandable why the myth persists, because believing in it allows one to recede into a make believe world in which those who are struggling have no one to blame but themselves, thereby allowing the sanctimonious to deny any responsibility to help their fellow man. I could be wrong, but I think Jesus had something to say about this.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Totally agree with this one.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

This is a great story. Thanks for sharing it. I, too, have a hard time understanding the hatred that lets someone be nasty to and about people who go to help those in need. It's not like they flew there first class. They got a ride provided by donations, and slept in cold tents and worked hard. My father used to tell me, "If you can't find something good to say about a person, keep your mouth shut." Great advice, especially when it involves nastiness to the less fortunate.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

Billy Bob I'm guessing your father grew up in a time when welfare was frowned upon for people who can work but choose not to.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

Billy, you have to enter the "mindset" of the haters. They want people to accept responsibility for themselves. They don't want taxpayer dollars going to the less fortunate. They want these people to show initiative. So, they get them tossed out of a camp that is self supporting and into government subsidized housing. When these nice people go across the country to help those in need, they Whine about people helping people. They used no government money, slept in tents in the cold and helped their fellow man. We cannot have that, just because that is what the Whiners want more of does not stop them Whining about people making it happen. these same people are probably doing quite well, while moaning about how bad the economy is.

Sheri Wander

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

I am so proud of my friends at Camp Take Notice and honored to be, in some way, associated with this community. When I asked one of the men traveling why he was going he told me "this is a time when now, more than ever, we need to help each other out. Camp Take Notice and MISSION have made it clear that opportunities to help others is what life is all about". Wouldn't this world be a better place if we all learned that. I spoke with the folks in New Jersey that CTN was working with and they were incredibly thankful and impressed with the group. It is stunning to me to see that folks can respond so harshly and negatively to a story about people going out of their way to help other people. Think it's a bad idea? Don't like CTN? Then why say anything? Would folks have such nasty things to say if it was a group of UM students who traveled to spend their thanksgiving break doing hurricane relief work in NJ? Ann Arbor, your prejudice is showing.

Jennifer Huston

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Cinnabar7071 What do you know of how folks have tried to help themselves? Have you been to the weekly meals and meetings? Seems to me this community is constantly inviting people to get to know them and not make assumptions. Have you taken them up on that? Have you donated such things as money for rent, food, medical insurance or are to talking about taxes ? Because it seems to me when CTN existed as a physical camp the community was doing a lot to not rely on gov. assistance with things like rent and food. By partnering with local churches and supporters they were helping themselves. You may be right on the medical insurance, but given the crap state of our healthcare system that seems a whole separate issue.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

Seems as if CTN residents/volunteers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Bless these volunteers for stepping up to help when they could. I hope they do not let the negative Nancy's get to them, and continue to take positive steps in their lives. There but for the grace of god go I!


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

"Wouldn't this world be better place if we all learned that" Sheri you be happy to know WE already learned this, we do indeed already hope these people with all kinds of things, such as rent, food, medical ins. WE just would like it if they helped themselves first.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

"I got it done and said, 'Take me to the hospital,'" he said. I wish I had enough insurance to just go to the hospital when I get sick................even with the insurance I would be out a few hundred dollars for a hospital visit.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

Wanna bet on that?

tom swift jr.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

How about assuming he paid the bill. Is it THAT hard to believe in people?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Tom swift........quite the contrary. I am assuming he did not have insurance, which means that once again we (the taxpayers) get to pay for his medical bill. And yet he's able to travel to another state and work, while fighting pneumonia................go figure.

tom swift jr.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

Jake, how do you know he had insurance? Did it say that in the article? Or, was this just a comment spewed out to cast negative eyes on this group.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Should he have laid down in the road and died? Would that make you feel better?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

So, why did they come back?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Hate to say it, but if we pay taxes then the CTN need to leave and stay where they where. They do not pay taxes. We do. They need to get a job and be responsible tax citizens. Not live off the system. I agree with oyxclean.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

If you don't like them here, why don't you leave?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Quite a profound story, actually: Those with seemingly "nothing" helping those that "lost everything." Humanity surviving and overcoming loss is where many miraculous stories begin. Infinite thanks to those that volunteer and serve, helping others in need. To the CTN folks: You stepped up in a major way. Great job! Thank you! Thank you for the update.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

To those who responded so negatively, sad. Frankly, I'm very pleased that these individuals took the time to go and help out. Bless you. Did any who are so negative regarding this article go and help?

John Beck

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Took time to go help out, these people don't have jobs. They have all the time in the world. How about cleaning up around Ypsilanti??? You don't have to rent vans to go there, you can jump right on the AATA

Nicole B.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

There is no Constitutional guarantee to live exactly where you want. If Ann Arbor is too expensive, there are less expensive places to live. It's called living within your means.

Sheri Wander

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Nicole B , you ask a good question that I would imagine many folks have. I appreciate the directness and a willingness not to be "anon" -- to me it implies good intent. There are some former residents of Camp Take Notice who have jobs. Some who held jobs even while living in camp. But, as you know, rent in this area is high so a job alone doesn't always mean a place to live. There is also the very real issue of isolation in a cheap apartment (which are out of the way and off the bus line separating people from community. ) The group in NJ spent a week and had the group with them as support. This is clearly different than "holding a long term job".... I guess my point is there are multiple answers to your question. If you'd like to know more, i"d invite you to come and get to know the community. Come and talk to those folks who went and ask them. The community still meets every Sunday and you would be more than welcome. Check out the blog for details.

Nicole B.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

OK, here's the point: "Camp Take Notice" was a squatters camp. The people who purported to represent those particular squatters wanted us to "take notice" that people were unable to find housing. Yet a bunch of them were able to travel all the way to New Jersey and provide free labor. If Take Notice "residents" can do that, they are certainly capable of holding a job and getting an apartment if they want to.

Nicole B.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

If only there was a way to exchange this kind of labor for money so they could rent apartments.

Nicole B.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

Mostly hateful. I've never been a fan of vagrants, bums, addicts, or criminals.

tom swift jr.

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

Are you offering them a job, Nicole, or are you just being hateful...hard to tell...


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

OK, let's see all of the haters spew forth their bile


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

yohan, the haters are out in full force, as are the armchair judges. there sure some unhappy people in this town who can only feel better by judging others. sad.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

What, no parade?


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Too funny!