This past weekend, an eclectic mix of 22 adults from all ends of the country had the privilege to - once more - make meaning in the wake of tragedy.  We're a group known to most as Build for James and this marks our 4th annual trip to Greater New Orleans, where we repeatedly meet to memorialize our dear friend, son, and brother - Mr. James Bernard Karpinos.  

this year's crew photographed outside PNOLA's Mid City office with the commemorative tree 

James was one of my teammates in AmeriCorps *NCCC, Class XII, Pacific Region - 'Best of the Dozen!' Our stint in AmeriCorps began in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane's Katrina & Rita; we subsequently spent a considerable amount of time in the Gulf, working for a variety of both governmental & nonprofit initiatives.  I think I speak for the bulk of us when I say that it was at that time - in the midst of disaster - that we fell in love with the strong people and vibrant culture that still persists today.  

In 2008, James suffered a tragic fall while hiking in Gorges State Park in North Carolina.  To honor his legacy and the work that our *NCCC class contributed, we began to come together every year.  The work that we do now is so incredibly rewarding - it not only allows us (his friends & family) to make life out of death; but it also allows us to come full circle, per se, be being a part of the reconstruction - the building of houses - after having played such an integral role in the immediate response to these disasters, which primarily involved demolition.  

This year, by far, was the most amazing year.  We worked for a new agency - PNOLA www.pnola.org - and stayed in a volunteer bunkhouse made possible by Hands on NOLA www.handsonneworleans.com, which whom some of us had worked with previously.  This year, our group worked for 2 days straight (352 hours total, the equivalent of one person working for 44 days) on 3 separate projects.  We contributed to: 1) building a drainage ditch; 2) installing insulation; and 3) completing a community center in Mid City. 

I, personally, worked both days on the drainage ditch and don't think I have ever moved that much cement in my life! But, then again, I'm not sure I've really ever moved cement... It's pretty incredible what a group of humans with brute strength (or at least we like to think) can get accomplished in two days. 

NCCC Alum and friends from afar make for one fierce drainage crew...  
...digging, digging, digging ain't nothing after gutting, gutting,
which is all we did when we first arrived in 2006... 
...demolition is still my favorite though ;-) 
tip for efficient cement removal: hit it really hard with a sledgehammer... 
...out with the old pipes 

Kirt - our fearless crew leader - was wonderful in teaching us the ways of the pickaxe and sledgehammer; and that doesn't even begin to describe the skills the others managed to acquire! The folks at the community center worked on a variety of different projects under the supervision of Rob, who schooled his group on the use of caulk, paint and siding.  This group did an awesome job with detailing and managed to apply the first coat of stain to the hardwood floors, which looked great! I'm proud to say that PNOLA announced the project complete only a few days later! I also have to send out props to the insulation group - PROPS! Seriously if you've ever worked with it, you know it's not the most pleasant job to get involved with; especially when the fibers get all up in your business :( The intimate group of James' family who stepped up for the insulation project did an awesome job, despite my frown face; measuring and installing the itchy material with layers of drywall into little spaces - you are all an inspiration! 

In with the new! Here, James' family (Caroly - Mom; & Justin - Brother) work to weatherize a deck outside    of the community center.  
  Inside, others worked to stain the floors! 
where steady progress was made with good company! 

…& finishing touches were used to disguise all signs of the truth – we aren’t really carpenters; we’re just enthusiastic volunteers who love to show love this way!

Again, thanks to all the site supervisors and incredible staff at PNOLA who utilized our resources as well as you did = we had a blast working with you & value your thoughtful consideration.  In fact, to top the weekend off, PNOLA donated a tree for James, which we planted outside of their Mid City office to commemorate our friend & our work.  Words cannot describe what it means to us to continually see and experience that James' legacy lives on - literally - in a geographical location that means as much as it does to ALL OF US... The folks at PNOLA are amazing and their dedication, compassion, and spirit was an inspiration this year - we are already counting down the days to next year's event.  In the meantime, to everyone in the Big Easy" Go check out the tree! It's pretty incredible - the roots we all continue to cultivate; the community we continue to build around our friend James.  

1 comment:

Miles Owen said...

Wow, just noticed this. Great summary. I will miss you guys next year.