Wednesday, April 4, 2007

BREAK WEEK: Day Six

April 4: Day Six, Break 2007

We broke into two groups this morning; one went back to finish the roof on the Law St. house and one went back to New Orleans East to help Alisha finish the houses over there. Soon after the roofers began their task, rain started to fall and the Habitat staffer at that site pulled everyone off of the roof. When they learned that they would not be able to get back on the roof all day, they decided to join the other part of the group out in New Orleans East.

There they found their teammates spread around the neighborhood doing a range of jobs. Some were digging post holes for chain link fencing that will be installed around Natasha’s purple house. Others were touching up paint at two different houses. A few were installing the porch ceiling at a house around the corner while others were doing some work on the edge of the roof at that same house. No matter what anyone was doing, we were all actually thrilled to see the rest of our team arrive.

We have learned over the course of our four trips that we love it best when we are all together or at least within walking distance of each other. Maybe that’s why we love to work with the families of our favorite blocks of the Ninth Ward so much: they live close together, meaning that we, too, can be close together.

We all congregated briefly and talked about how best to use the day. Once we realized that we had a solid chance to work on Rosie’s floors without having everyone in our group passing through the rooms, six of us split off and headed to the Ninth to install laminate flooring.

We were determined to finish those floors today no matter what. The easy way to do it would have been to put thresholds between all the rooms and just fill the floors in from wall to wall. However, we realized that Rosie’s roommate Janice already depends on a walker to get around; thus, we needed to make the floors as smooth as possible, meaning that we needed to run the floorboards all the way across the door frames and into the next room.

Even though we were installing “quick” clip flooring, the notches, edges, irregularities, and overall quirks that we had to address were quite challenging. Fortunately, Chris, Shane, and Aaron were up to the challenge and figured out just what needed to be done over the last couple of days. After arriving at 10:00 a.m. to finish the floors, the floor crew took until 8:00 p.m. to reach their goal. When that last board clicked into place in the corner by the front door, a big cheer went up into the backyard.

We also began a big new project at Rosie’s, this one designed by Jack and Justin. In order to help Janice get in and out of the house more comfortably, they came up with the plan to build a ramp out the back door and into the carport. It is a BIG project, but with a crew this large we can make real progress pretty quickly. Many of us learned to mix and pour concrete and dig postholes right there on the spot. Jack kept track of every part of the job and we look forward to finishing this undertaking before we leave.

Happily, the company that donated siding to some of the neediest residents of New Orleans showed up over the last couple of days to replace aluminum siding on Rosie’s house. In other words, as we were fixing and transforming the interior of the house and the backyard, someone else was simultaneously improving the fa├žade.

For those of us who were in the first wave of relief at Rosie’s when we arrived to clear her house in January 2006, the changes that have occurred there over the last few weeks are unbelievable. Her house will be very beautiful even in the next few days; by the end of April, it should be in the best condition it has achieved in the last 80 years.

At the end of the evening today, we gathered in Rosie’s backyard with our other Ninth Ward friends and had a big cookout. Different people brought different contributions and we all sat outside and had a lovely garden party. We celebrated the end of the flooring job, the beginning of the ramp job, and our overall joy at being in New Orleans again.

We still have a lot of work to do before we can leave satisfied. Because we are leaving on Saturday (to give ourselves the time to get to our families for Easter if we so choose), we must work very efficiently. We haven’t even talked about going to the French Quarter or any of the other normal tourist stuff. We will probably squeeze in a run to the Quarter, but it’s not our priority. Work is.

For those who are worried about the fact that we effectively surrendered our break this year, we want to reassure you that even though we are exhausted (and sore) we are rejuvenated. As we have said many times, we are happy to be together, we are happy to feel so productive, and we are happy to know that our community bond remains strong even when some of our beloved friends are not with us. Thanks to all of you New Orleans veterans for contributing to our strength this week . . .



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Linzy and Lindsay teamed up to fix the soffit over the porch at a Habitat house in New Orleans East. They mastered the art of popping and locking the sheathing despite the errors in structure that they also had to correct.




Brianna works on a house in East New Orleans that needs quite a bit of damage control. Bree's job was to fix mistakes that had been made in installing the windows.




Jed and Lindsay participate in one of our many bucket brigades to transport the materials delivered from Home Depot today to the backyard at Rosie's.




The group begins to set things up for the evening cookout we had with our NOLA neighbors in the Ninth Ward.




The age-old entries to Rosie's house are not terribly accessible, so Jack and Justin designed a new back entry ramp from the carport. Here Matt and Jed help to establish the basic layout of the plan.




Shawny, Aaron, and Shane joined Chris, Jed, and Tommy to finish the new laminate floors in Rosie's house. Things were a bit out of skew in each of the rooms that they floored, meaning that the job has extended over parts of three days.




Jed, Jack, and Matt each do their part to raise the new access ramp at Rosie's so that her disabled roommate Janice can get in and out of the house on her walker.




Kate, Lindsay, Emily, and Lauren Trigo gather 'round the camera, as we had no campfire and only one lightbulb to light our cookout.




We got to end the day with a lovely cookout in the Ninth Ward planned by our wonderful friends the Trigos: Bruce, Lauren, and Lisa. We can't imagine trying to function in NOLA without these amazing friends.