Friday, April 6, 2012

One more Lakeview home restored

During my second week at SBP last October, I and several other new AmeriCorps members were asked to work with clients to write brief biographies about their lives before and after Hurricane Katrina. These interviews were an eye-opening introduction to some of the many reasons homeowners still weren't home. The first homeowner I spoke with was Mr. Brian, a retiree who had run out of funds before elevating and rebuilding his Lakeview home of more than forty years.

The house was completely destroyed by the floodwaters that inundated his neighborhood when a section nearby 17th Street Canal levee collapsed. I vividly remember seeing muddy waterlines all the way up to the eaves of the roofs of Lakeview homes in early 2006 (right) when I returned to the city for the first time.

I knew this October as I started at SBP that the recovery wasn’t over, but I didn’t have faces to put with that knowledge—speaking with Brian made the slow recovery personal. He had been able to demolish his old home, lay a foundation and raise pillars to elevate a house upon, but then his funding ran out.

In the fall, SBP’s skilled construction crews began framing a new home atop those pillars. In November two AmeriCorps site supervisors took over work and began the insulation, drywall, mudding and more that was needed to complete the home along with the help of volunteers from across the country, including Olivet College, Wheelock College, St. John's Lutheran in Sweet Air, Boston College, Loyola Law, and many, many others.

Even through the winter, when volunteer numbers were sometimes low and occasionally only the site supervisors were at work, Brian had fresh coffee made for them every day and any tool imaginable available for their use every day.

Brian's home was finished last month, and we just threw a Welcome Home Party for him (left)! We welcomed him home with cake, housewarming gifts, and more than 75 volunteers. Speaking about his new house, Brian said, “I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the magnificence of it.”

It’s amazing thing to have seen Lakeview completely destroyed after the storm more than six years ago and now to have been there for this process from the early stages of construction to completion. I’m so glad to have been a part of helping one more New Orleanian move home, and I hope to see many more happy returns in the future as we help every family come home!

--Sarah, SBP AmeriCorps member and Communications Coordinator