Monday, January 26, 2009

Let the work begin...

The highway/bridge engineer has a big heart and willing hands.

The kitchen crew did a great job of preparing breakfast for Louis & me as we started our Monday. After loading our tools and lunch we drove through the 9th Ward as we made our way to the NOAH warehouse. There we met our construction coordinator Don Snipes and started planning our month. Don then took us to Mrs Holloway's house where we checked on the progress of her home. There we really have a challenge. Mrs. Holloway can receive a cash rebate on her cuts of $19k if the house is 90% complete by the end of Feb 2009. That is nineteen thousand dollars cash! That would not only help her with expenses, but also give her a real start as she moves back into her neighborhood. From where I stood this morning I honestly see no way that can be done. Though things have been completed the last four weeks there is still much to be done. The plumber has not begun his work. The electrical wiring needs to be in place. Insulation and sheet rock needs to be installed and the heating and cooling system is still in the planning stages. On top of all of that, Louis and I are the army of volunteers that are working on that project. It will be a miracle of God's grace and mercy...but it is for $19k!
Louis breaking up tile in the laundry room.

We then went to Mrs. Phillip's house. That was encouraging as the progress has moved that home forward toward completion. Louis and I believe that with two weeks hard work and a team or so of volunteers Mrs. Phillip might actually move into her home by the end of Feb.

We concentrated the rest of the work day on tearing out old tile in a bathroom and laundry room. We also prepped a few walls and a ceiling for texture finish. I crawled under the old shot gun house to plan a new waste line for Mrs. Phillip's "palace" bathroom(I'll have pictures later).
At the end of our day she joined us in her home and visited with us while we worked. At 85 years old she is a beacon of peace. Even after losing almost all her possessions and not living in her home for over 3 years she is bubbling with joy and patience. In our conversation I learned a few things about her.
  • Mrs Phillips family has been in New Orleans for over 150 years
  • The "family" home still stands in Treme.
  • Her husband worked for the U.S. Postal service for 42 years.
  • Her husband went into surgery to clear a heart blockage "and never came back" eleven years ago.
  • When she left before Katrina she had no idea it would be one year and one half before she would return to the city.
  • When she moved back to NOLA she lived with three different relatives before she moved into "that trailer at my front door".
  • When I am 85, I hope to have 1/2 of the grace, peace and joy she exudes each moment.
We ended our day exhausted and drove through the city down St Bernard St/Hwy back to the village. It is a city that still shows the scars of the storm, but even with that, it is a colorful place to drive through. Bright colors are on many homes and businesses and water canals, bridges and the river are everywhere.

The kitchen crew cooked a great dinner, topped off with banana pudding. The place is growing quiet now as the other 9 people or so who arrived today have settled in for the night. Take a moment and ask for God's blessings on us and the people of NOLA.
What will someday be Mrs Phillip's dining room.

The "alley" between the sisters' houses and the FEMA trailer.

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