Roofing Day – Monday May 3, 2010   Leave a comment

We met in the sanctuary with our UCC leader in Disaster Relief, Alan Coe; another group of 23 volunteers who were from four or five UCC churches in Ohio; and our work-site leaders for the week. Alan says that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, and that UCC – in the Hope Shall Bloom  fund – has money to keep going throughout 2011, while other churches are ending their operations. He said there has been no shortage of volunteers – the best witness of God’s love and compassion – and I can see from the calendar in the hallway that this church is booked solid with different groups coming every week  The work has not slowed down, said Alan. There are 900 FEMA trailers (now called "temporary housing units") still in use.
We found out that the 12 houses we worked on in spring 2009 with Church World Service have been completed. The homeowners have all moved back in and are happy. The family from two years ago are still completing some paperwork, and have maybe another six weeks before they can return to their home. The congregation at Beecher Memorial does not worship there any more, we were sorry to hear. The weather was overcast and warm, without rain. The Mira Vista group got our assignment: roofing!
We drove across the mighty Mississippi on a long bridge to a neighborhood of brick homes in Bridge City. The seven of us were joined by six from Ohio and our foreman, Frank. Our first task was to remove the current asphalt from the roof of a single-story house at 7533 Britt Street, using shingle scrapers (a flat-bladed shovel with big teeth) and shovels. Luckily some people had done that before, and some who had never done it were comfortable up on the roof and began the process with lots of energy. They scrapped off the old shingles and shoved them down onto the tarps we had laid out along side of the house. Those of us (me) more happy with both feet on level ground went to work loading a wheelbarrow with the pieces and carting that off load by load to a dumpster, which arrived at the house in the early afternoon.
It was hot work on the roof. In about 40 minutes the whole back section (one of six) of the roof was prepared. Then Frank and several others started laying down the new tar paper with red and green colored tacks. They would interleave the papers like basket weaving. Work continued, with breaks and lunch, throughout the day until the entire roof was swept clean of the old asphalt, all the remains were in the dumpster, and the whole roof was covered with new tar paper. By that time it was close to 4:00 pm. Hot, tired, and ready for showers, we made our way first to the grocery store and then back ‘home’ to Little Farms UCC.
In the evening Little Farms hosted us and the Ohioans for what they called a dinner of red beans and rice, fried chicken, and a few side dishes. The dishes covered a long counter and two long tables: it was a feast! I sat next to a retired school lunch woman who had been doing relief work for three years, and across the table from a church member here whose brother needed to rebuild his home after the storm. She said that people now talk not so much about ‘rebuilding’ as about ‘creating’ – creating the New Orleans they would like to see. Some places, like a neighborhood near the Superdome, have been rebuilt more beautiful than they were before. Some historic homes are getting the care they need to be restored. Many homes here were built with cypress wood, which used to be abundant. It does not absorb water, she said. Once houses built with cypress were gutted, the exterior walls could be left to dry out, and the interiors were redone. She said that some families who had moved away are now returning.

Sleepy and full, everyone is off to bed except for me. Here’s the address of the UCC hurricane recovery website:
–Bonnie, 10:30 pm
P.S. The delicious chicken came from the Louisiana Cafe, a nearby restaurant ( 504-737-1991).


Posted May 3, 2010 by NOLA-er in Uncategorized

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