Help Lola And April Turner Get Back Home

Don't Let 7 Years Go By Before Lola and April Turner Finish Rebuilding

April and Lola Turner, are sisters from a big family of 7 all born and raised in New Orleans.  As the seventh year since Hurricane Katrina’s devastating effects approaches, the Turner sisters are STILL trying to rebuild their home that their mother bought when April was a teenager. Unfortunately Mrs. Turner died in 2009 never seeing her home fully recovered from the 50,000 dollars worth of damage it incurred from Hurricane Katrina.

After getting help from various church groups to gut the house, sadly April and Lola Tuner’s Road Home funds were defrauded by a contractor who promised to do the work necessary to make their home safe and livable.  PNOLA began working with the Turners in 2011, and in partnership with The United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s ‘No Place Like Home’ program, the help of hundreds of volunteers, PNOLA Build has significantly lowered and subsidized the rebuild cost, and the house is nearly finished.  There’s light a light at the end of the tunnel, but we need your help! We are down to the very last details that need to be done and we need help to finish:   

Items left to be finished:
Completion of Plumbing Repairs
Completion of Electrical Repairs
Kitchen Cabinets installation
Plaster Repairs
Tile Installs
Finish Baseboard and Trim

 If you wish to support Lola and April Turner please mail a check to:
 PNOLA Build
Attn: Sarah Baldwin
2307 Bienville St
New Orleans LA 70119 
**and in the memo of the check write LOLA & APRIL TURNER


A lesson in patience

We are almost ready to start flooring at Laura Tusa’s…almost, except for that pesky layer of linoleum glue covering the approximately 500 square foot space we’re planning to tile. The glue is a water-based adhesive, meaning the thin-set cement we lay the tiles in won’t adhere to it correctly which, in turn, means the glue has to go. I thought this seemed simple enough, until we actually started scraping it. Turns out this stuff is incredibly stubborn and is incredibly difficult to get off. I spent almost an entire day scraping with only this (plus some nasty blisters) to show for it:
(about 15 square feet)

So, I asked my project manager to look into something – ANYTHING – we could do to make it easier. A couple hours later she called me back without much good news. She read me her favorite bit of advice from the internet:

“No matter what you do this is a nasty job. Chemicals will not help much and usually make things more gummy and difficult. If you have been using a razor scraper so far it doesn’t get much better. Using a heat gun or even a hair dryer will soften the glue and make removing the chunks of old lino[leum] easier…I usually end up with blisters on my blisters after a job like this, sorry.”

Not exactly encouraging, right? The glue still had to go, though, so Tuesday morning I taped up my poor blistered hands and went to work with the heat gun. It helped…sort of. You can peel up decent-sized pieces with the help of the heat gun, but it still requires a good amount of force. At the end of day two my blisters had become blister, and I’d only barely finished the kitchen (with the laundry room, huge den, and hallway still to go).

 Tuesday through Friday I enlisted (or maybe conscripted is a better word?) volunteers in the scraping effort, and they didn’t have any more luck than I did. On Wednesday they rented a huge scraping machine from Home Depot, and although it worked okay initially the blade got dull much sooner than we would have liked. We also tried a hammer and chisel, a hammer and scrapers (we managed to break the handles of a couple of scrapers that way, as you might imagine), and finally, a desperate raid of the PNOLA tool cache led to experiments with an electric paint scraper and an air hammer. After all of that, the internet guy turned out to be right: the razor scraper and heat gun combo still work the best. We’re about halfway through, with obviously many more hours of scraping to go. I can only hope the volunteers this week are as patient (and stubborn?) as last week’s were…


--Welcome Home Mary Rush--

Great news: Mary Rush is HOME!!

I’m Heidi Miles, project manager over here at PNOLA BUILD. This week was another one of those weeks that remind us all over here why we do what we do. Monday we got to finally welcome home Mary Rush and Marvin Nelson, two of our homeowners whose homes were sponsored by various New Orleans Saints players. These two deserving clients have now been waiting almost 7 and we were so proud to welcome them home! I was the project manager for the Rush family and below is the speech that I gave at her welcome home ceremony. Hope you too can feel the joy and happiness that this moment brought us by reading about her journey.

“Welcome! My name is Heidi Miles and I am a project manager at the Phoenix of New Orleans. I had the great privilege of being a part of this incredible journey, one that started even before I had ever visited this city. Almost seven years ago, a storm called Katrina came and destroyed lives, communities, and 100s of homes, one of which we are now standing in front of. Something that Katrina did not destroy though was the spirit of the people. From the day I met Mrs. Mary Rush I saw the epitome of that New Orleans spirit that drew me to this city. A woman who has seen and been through so much with losing her home, but still has a spirit that makes me smile the moment I see her. 

I will never forget how happy she was after we only built the exterior walls.  Though this house was barely a shell of a home, she was overjoyed-like I said Mrs. Mary Rush embodies the indomitable spirit and resilience that courses through this city. 

During the time that PNOLA was building this house, Mrs. Mary’s journey took another turn. About halfway through the process Mary went into the hospital for several weeks, when she finally was released she came out paralyzed from the waist down. With a new life to adjust to Mary had to move to Mississippi with her daughter, Sabrina, who serves proudly in our United States Army. Despite the new challenges she faced, Mrs. Mary was no less determined to get home!

Finally, about two weeks ago, the day arrived! Waiting at her house with PNOLA staff and volunteers, we were so excited to show Mrs. Mary her new home! While sitting in front waiting to help Sabrina and Mary unload I get the simplest yet most unforgettable text message of my life, "We Home" Sabrina texted. Finally, seven years later, they were home! Finally this house that United Way, the Saints, and PNOLA staff and of course VOLUNTEERS from all over the country put countless hours in was going to be a home!! And indeed it was, the moment Mrs. Mary and Sabrina walked into the house, something changed, it went from our construction site on 1134 S. Gayoso to the RUSH Home! So, today, I want to officially say to ya'll, Sabrina, Chris, Kayla, Micah and Mary, WELCOME HOME!!!!

Before I pass the mike on, I just want to briefly remind everyone that as much as today is a celebration, it is also a reminder that though the journey for Mary to get back home is over there are still many families out there like the Rush family that are waiting to come home, families that call our office weekly who need anywhere from 500 dollars worth of work to a complete rebuild.

PNOLA strives to help all of these clients and are able to do so with the help and donations of people like you, Jahri Evans, the Saints, United Way, St. Paul’s Homecoming Center, Monte and Beth Ikemire Community Fund and of course our generous volunteers who not only give countless hours but donate their funds and resources. And for that, we thank you! So please, continue to reach out to your communities, families and friends and help more people like the Rushes finally "Come HOME"! Thanks.”

Thank you so much for reading and please consider helping PNOLA BUILD bring home more families through your time and donations. If you can get 20 friends to give 20 dollars that can mean 400 dollars towards bringing someone home! 

Below is a picture of Mary and I from that wonderful day!

                     Mrs. Mary Rush and I

Thank you,

Heidi Miles


Gillip AKA Gil Limas

I think I was the only one who called Gil, Gillip...
This is a LONG overdue blog as a tribute to the wonderful and fabulous Gil Limas.  Gil had to head home to California at the beginning of May and all of us at PNOLA have been missing him ever since.
Gil was one of those special people who always had a smile on his face and always looked on the bright side.  He could always make you laugh when you needed it.  I feel very privileged to have served a term of AmeriCorps with Gil Limas.  He has hopes of becoming a TL in the future for NCCC, and I can't imagine a better person to serve as a TL.  What a lucky NCCC team that will be to have you as their leader, Gil!


We miss you and hope that all is 
well back in California!