First WorkDay – Monday   Leave a comment

Up early for yoga in the dining room with Patsy. We did mountain pose, the sun salutation, child’s pose, bridge, happy baby, and spinal twists. We faced a bank of windows on the Carrollton street side and can see live oak trees. Breakfast, packing lunch (turkey and cheese sandwiches), all fifteen of us out the door by 8:05 am, only five minutes behind schedule! Off to Little Farms UCC, which is the headquarters of South Central UCC Disaster Recovery Ministry.
8:30 am arrive at Little Farms. Three different groups are here this week: some college students from Indiana, some people from the Disciples Church in Kansas, and us. Reverend Alan Coe talks to us in the sanctuary. He talks about our denomination’s commitment to help people all along the Gulf Coast. How this is an opportunity to use our hands and our hearts to rebuild homes.

  • How do you choose the house you are working on? At first, many of the houses were owned by UCC church members. As time went on, more houses from other members of the community are being renovated.
  • How do people come to us? Say you’re a homeowner with the shell of a house and you find you have no money left. You call 211 and ask for help. A case manager will be assigned to you.
  • An agency representative goes to see your property and figures out what it will take to get you back into your house. Then your file is presented, anonymously, to a funding committee. Three relief groups: United Way, Red Cross, and the Salvation Army are providing funds.
  • Once you have funding, an agency like the United Church of Christ takes your case and becomes your home’s project manager. Every agency has a waiting list. Alan estimates there are another 50-75 thousand homes in the area that need people like us to help them in order to make their homes livable again.
  • Some people are Partners in Service with UCC. They are long-term volunteers with particular skills, and more are needed. Retired lawyers. Recent college graduates. Contractors.
  • Then people like us come to help. We are like the day laborers that hang out outside of Home Depot!

Alan hopes that when we go home, our lives are changed, and we begin to tell the story. He says that what happens inside our hearts, minds, and souls is worth the effort.

Pastor Susan presents Alan with a check made out to Little River for approximately $4,300.00. This is from the money we raised at the New Orleans benefit dinner at Bucci’s in Emeryville.  Claps! Claps!
1:00 pm lunch break. We are working on a house on S. Cortez and Baudin in Orleans parish. The house was built in the1890s. The present owners, Bill and Marilyn Gibson, are now in their "young 80s or old 70s." They bought the house from its original owners. The Gibsons have lived in the house for fifty years and they raised seven children here. Bill still drives his truck to make pick-ups and deliveries. One of their daughters works "all the time" as an assistant manager at a hotel. While the house is under re-construction, the Bill and Marilyn are living with this daughter and her son.
The house is a "double shotgun" style. It could have been used for two families. It has two front doors. Originally it had two living rooms, two bedrooms, two kitchens, and two bathrooms in a double row. In most renovation projects, the goal is to restore the house to its original functionality. In this case, some changes were approved by the agencies funding the rebuild. Additional closets  are planned, a master bath, and another bedroom. The house is set, raised up, on bricks. The inside of the house has new studs where they were needed, the original flooring, no insulation yet, no wallboard. You can see through to the attic. After the levees broke, water was in the living room up to our waists, and it stayed there for four long weeks. There used to be another room at the back of the house. It was so ruined by the storm that it was torn down and not replaced.
The outside wood of the house was scraped and primed before we got there. It needed work on the back wall, and a coat of paint all over. Rick, one of the Partners in Service, gets us started. He’s driving between several projects today.

We assembled scaffolding to reach up to the high peak on the back wall. We used power tools to cut lengths of siding to finish the upper triangle of that wall, and got it about half done. It was a learning process. There needs to be two inches of overlap between the board above and the board below. The screws have to be screwed in at every stud and at one inch below the top edge of the board. The abutment of two boards side by side has to occur at the stud. The workers needed to drill pilot holes in the planks so that the screws would be easier to install, and the planks wouldn’t crack. Barbara, Heinz, Dan, Michael, and Makenda were awesome climbers, cutters, and builders!
The rest of us painted the sides of the house as high as we could reach without ladders. The house was transformed from stark white to a soft, avocado green, like the inside of a Haas avocado. (Color name – Hazy Jade) The trim is going to be white, and the cement block foundation will be a darker green. It also has decorative wrought iron trim on the upper corners of the front side. Before, the house was a light blue with darker blue trim. So this will really look different. After lunch Rick brought more ladders, and we could paint up higher. 
A pregnant woman sat on her steps and watched us work. She was playing a CD by the Williams Brothers, very mellow. Another woman, driving by, thanked us and honked her horn. Patsy and a few others talked to a young woman (in her mid-twenties) and two children who live "in the East." The young woman said that they woke up in water during the storm. She said they are afraid it will happen again; they listen to the news every day. "You know, ever since this happened, some parts [of the city] have more water than before, and they think the land is sinking." This family wants to move, but they don’t know where – somewhere safer, still in New Orleans.
3:30 – 4:00 pm we wrap up, pack the ladders inside the house, take down the scaffolding, wash the brushes, and put the power tools back into Rick’s pickup. Jasmine, a neighbor’s black dog, greats each and every one of us with a rapidly wagging tail. Rick is satisfied with our work. He says he’s had some groups that just sit around all day! And some where no one is confident enough to work on scaffolding. We got more done than he thought we would!
Home, showers, relaxing. Barbara is making fish, brown rice, and salad. Almost dinnertime.
Signing off, Bonnie

P.S. A tip from Arlene on a good seafood restaurant (especially the crab cakes): The Galley in Metairie on 

2535 Metairie Rd.


Posted May 5, 2008 by NOLA-er in Uncategorized

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