Friday, April 6, 2007


April 6: Day Eight, Break Week

Habitat for Humanity took the day off today for Easter weekend, so we put all of our efforts into the homes of our friends in the Ninth Ward. Mostly, we concentrated on Rosie’s house to finish the jobs that we started there during the week. Our main jobs continued to be the flooring and the entry ramp, but there were tons of other jobs in motion as well. We also took on a big new job in earnest: installing the baseboards throughout the rooms of Rosie’s house.

We were all pretty tired and sore, but those factors had no influence on our levels of energy. We decided to get up even earlier than usual to be sure that we finished the jobs that we had started. No one balked at our 6:30 wakeup time, especially because we had a solid agreement to eat a fast food breakfast rather than our usual bagels and granola.

Once at Rosie’s, a few people immediately hit the floors, literally starting an entire day of crawling around on their knees. They finished tiling the bathroom and back entryway and grouted the tiles that they had set yesterday. At the same time, a whole crew was going through and installing baseboards, which is no easy task in a house whose walls are a bit askew. Others were disassembling a no-longer-necessary fence in the backyard to free up more space around the new access ramp. Suddenly the house that we had entered back in January 2006 looked totally different, as it had new exterior siding, new interior walls, ceilings, and floors, a fresh coat of paint throughout, and a liberating new ramp to access the house from the rear.

It is important to note that all of this was accomplished under somewhat primitive conditions, as we had many fewer tools than we normally have when the Verrips brothers drive a truck and trailer across the country to support our efforts. Thus, where we usually have a chop saw, a table saw, a circular saw and a reciprocating saw, we just had one Skil Saw that we adapted for all of our uses. We also had to innovate over power usage, as Rosie’s electricity is still not hooked up.

While all of this was happening at Rosie’s, Tim was leading the charge at Sarah’s to finish work on the security doors and bars on which she depends. Different people helped him throughout the day, but Tim was the one who dedicated himself entirely to her needs. Sarah stayed right by Tim’s side all day and talked about how blessed she feels that we are helping to take care of her house. By the end of the day, several of us gathered at her back door to attach her security door. It was quite an ordeal, but – as usual – our crew made it happen. Sarah immediately burst into tears.

We all were fighting back tears back at Rosie’s house, as just before the ramp was finished, our friend Lisa Trigo brought Rosie and her disabled roommate Janice out to check out the ramp and the interior work. As we have mentioned before, we built the ramp specifically with Janice in mind, as she currently uses a walker to get around. We just learned, however, that even with the walker, she has never been very mobile. In fact, Lisa told us that until the storm drove Janice out of the house on N. Clairborne, she had not left the house AT ALL for a full SEVEN YEARS!

When Lisa invited her to come see the ramp, Janice was very reluctant to go, thinking that she might not be able to make it up the ramp at all. She somehow got up the courage to try (Rosie’s encouragement sure helped!) and she got her first glimpse back into the almost-restored house. We all stood along the ramp and watched her go, trying to hold back tears. She was excited to see the interior of the house and she was ecstatically proud of her achievement in making it up the ramp. So were we. Rosie said that Janice kept glowing with pride for the rest of the evening.

As we think about it, that ramp might symbolize the biggest single change we have made in any person’s life in our NOLA work so far. Janice could not have maneuvered into or out of the house without that ramp, so we have given her freedom, sunshine, fresh air, and a new sense of pride in her accomplishment. Wow.

We stayed into the darkness finishing touchup painting and other tasks. We made a gumbo run that also included some fried shrimp and boiled crawfish. We held another candelight picnic in Rosie’s front room, joined by Sarah, Rosie, and the Trigos. A few of us made a run to get special souvenirs of our time(s) in New Orleans. We won’t tell you which people are involved, but we will tell you that their souvenirs came from a tattoo parlor. Oh dear.

We didn’t quite finish every job, as we needed to let some things dry before we could continue. So now about half of us are getting up at 5:30 a.m. to return to Rosie’s house and finish what we can before we leave on our long drive to Houston to catch our flight back to California.

We’ll check in one more time and let you know how things went. . .

Shane continued his mastery of the wet saw today as he cut many tricky notches and cut-outs to accommodate the intricacies of the bathroom and the entryway.

Justin gave a quick tutorial on grout application at the beginning of the day so that we could finish the kitchen floor at Rosie's.

Linzy was one of the lead installers of baseboards at Rosie's.

We communicate quite a bit through the open windows at Rosie's as some of us work inside and some outside.

Janeva and Lindsay work on installing the baseboards at Rosie's.

Brianna turned out to be quite a master at the art of grouting.

Sarah surprised us by cooking a lunch of spaghetti, corn, and bread for us today.

Sarah joined us for lunch on Rosie's other porch.

Tim took this great aerial shot of the ramp in progress from Red's steps behind Rosie's house.

Jack and Bryan sign their names on a slab of concrete that we poured by the ramp.

Here's a look at the floor after it was grouted.

A whole crew of us worked to install Sarah's security door so that she can finally lock her house entirely.