On Saturday, October 27, eleven men and women volunteers including two deacons from the Archdiocese of Chicago ventured down to New Orleans with Hope’s on the Way making their sixth trip since January of 2006. It has been two years since Hurricane Katrina and Rita hit the shores of Louisiana, but the affects of the storm still lingers on.
Arriving in New Orleans on Sunday after traveling almost 1,000 miles in two days, we would be staying at the former rectory of St. Rose of Lima church in the seventh ward. The rectory now called Duchene House, is a hostel run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. We settled into dormitory style rooms and prepared for Monday, the first day of work.
Our week of work was connected with Catholic Charities Helping Hands division in New Orleans. We would end up doing three projects in five days.
Our first project was a town house in Harvey, Louisiana. Located about 45 minutes drive from New Orleans, this home (owned by a deaf family) sustained hurricane damage from Katrina. Our job was to complete the dry wall, taping, sanding and preparation necessary before the painting could be accomplished. We completed the bulk of this job in two days. On the third day, while half the team finished the sanding, the other half went off to cut weeds in home sight lots. Lots where the house was removed are still subject to New Orleans rules, which require lawn and weed trimming. Penalties for abuse of this law start at $100 per day fine. Four members of our team spent day three weed whacking and cutting down weeds by machete that were as tall as trees; then spraying a weed preventative that would last for three months.
The third project was started on the fourth day and extended until Friday at noon when we prepared to return to leave. Shifting to the hardest hit area of New Orleans we drove from Duchene House in the 7th ward to the lower 9th ward. Our assignment was to paint the exterior of a wood frame two story home. Our nine member team, painted two full coats of paint including a complementary second color on the trim. Chris and his family who owned the home had been living in a FEMA trailer all this time and in two weeks would finally be back in their home.
All three projects were challenging. The team consisting of seven men and two women was one of the hardest working groups that I have had the pleasure to work with. They were willing to do whatever that had to be done, even if it meant standing at the top of the 35 foot ladder to paint the top corners, or getting cuts from the backlash of the bush whacker. They had traveled nearly 1,000 miles to help in some way and they would not be deterred by the hazards or enormity of the project.
Since January of 2006 six teams of volunteers have ventured to New Orleans to bring the people back to their homes. Each time God calls the most qualified to personally give of themselves to help others. This trip was like the other five and I venture to say like the next five will be.
Plans are now being formalized for trip number seven led by Deacon Joe Winblad and Linda Rybski, two members of the Hopes on the Way board of directors. Volunteers wishing to join them are asked to e-mail us.