The End of an Era

To be quite honest I have been putting off this blog post for a really long time for quite a few reasons. Mostly I am so sad to let this house go. I'm sure if you worked even for a day on Betty Longo's house with me you heard me express my love for Betty, my love for that house and my pride in the work that we would be completing together.

Don't get me wrong, there were some hard days that really forced me to remember the core reason of why I am down here building, but looking back I remember most things like the great nurses from New York who so willingly helped pack up all of Betty's belongings and load them into a storage unit. Or the spirited Mo-vember group who first hung insulation with me before I even knew what I was doing. Or standing on buckets hanging ceiling drywall with Jeremy and Jessica over Thanksgiving break. I remember moving what seemed like 9 million sheets of drywall in with the rest of the JMU crew and feeling so accomplished sitting on the stack once we were finished.

I remember hanging those 12 foot sheets of drywall with Katherine, alone, in the freezing cold. It was so cold most mornings that we couldn't function until we had some cocoa in us. Even then we spent a majority of the time huddled around a space heater or thinking of the best way to stay warm. We kept ourselves occupied pretty well and got to know just about everything about each other those few weeks waiting for volunteers.

I remember Sr. Barbara down under the house helping with some complicated pieces of flooring and Paoula and Lori working in a (dis)functional team to get room after room of flooring done. I smile thinking about a house full of nuns rebuilding the life of a 72 year old Catholic woman.

I am forever thankful to Trav and Holly who stuck out the hardest week at Betty's with me and finished up list after list of punch list items scribbled all over anything that I could get my hands on. Thank you to the group from New York (Keon, Milano, Laura, Joe, Allyssa, Jessie and Sue) who framed out windows like no ones business and kept me laughing all week long.

I love being able to think about all the people Cassie next door scared the crap out of, who were then amazed when I stuck my hand lovingly into the fence to pet her belly (shes the neighbors pit bull, to clarify).

I'm thankful for the wisdom that Mr. Stuart Smith shared with us on his weekly visits from FEMA.

But more than anything, I am so excited to have been able to be a part of moving the LAST homeowner out of a FEMA trailer in New Orleans. It kind of closes a very large chapter, don't you think? I am still amazed some days while I'm working and my mind wanders that I was the one in charge of that house. That I was allowed to lead so many volunteers to get it done. It's pretty neat if you think about it. PNOLA rebuilt for the LAST FEMA trailer. Neat.

Now, though, I just hope that in having the last FEMA trailer in the city pulled we don't lose steam down here in rebuilding. Yes, things are much better than they were even 2 years ago when I started building down here. But, that doesn't mean we are finished. I think of families like the Nelson's who had a horrible amount of contractor fraud and are still (six years later) waiting to come home. I think about homes like Mary Rush's--one that is still in studs and is going to need countless hours of work to be ready for the family to move back in. There is still work to be done.

We're done!!! (The sun was in my eyes, but this picture might also describe JUST how I was feeling that day!)

So, that being said, I encourage you to find a reason that motivates you to bring those families home. I invite you to come and join with the staff here at PNOLA and volunteer. If nuns can lay a whole house of flooring in a week, imagine how much you can do (not to discredit nuns!! We love them!!!). There is something for everyone (and I would know--I was a nanny before this. Yep...a nanny. For six kids.). We need your help.

Thank you for loving Betty as much as I do. Thank you for spending a week, or a day helping me help her. Thank you being patient when I seemed scattered. Thank you not listening to Lady Gaga ALL day long and most importantly thank you for showing the rest of the country and the world that you still care about New Orleans.

I cannot WAIT to see you at my next house!! Come ready to work!



Laura said...

It looks amazing! I am so glad that I got to be a part of such an awesome project. You did an incredible job with this house and I hope that many more people get the opportunity to work with you and catch your enthusiasm for service!

Bridget said...


We really couldn't have done it without you. Thank you for being part of it and for loving this place as much as I do. (sorry about your name...i fixed it :)). Come back soon!

Joe568 said...

Awesome! Great work Bridget! It looks so good! I'm glad we got to help out and I'm excited to come back in the future to work on another house! :)

Keep up the amazing work,

(from Canisius College)