new-orleans-2009-062At 8:00am, Operation Helping Hands provided us with a short introduction and we immediately began dividing up into groups. It was probably the most organized volunteer operation since I worked with Habitat/FEMA in 2006, when the sole object was to gut houses. Each group was assigned specific tasks and staff coordinator. They assigned our group four different assignments, meaning that class groups did not necessarily hang together. Our assignments included gutting a house, laying sub-flooring in a house being renovated, installing a ceiling, and interior painting. I worked with a majority of Trevor and Conor’s group installing flooring.

new-orleans-2009-064We were sent to a newly-acquired house right around the corner from Catholic Charities’ St. Raymond Center (or St. Ray’s to the long-time volunteers). The original studs and exterior boards were a rich, red cedar, but much of it has been lost to the elements and what to what looks like misguided renovations. The house was old and no longer square, if indeed it ever was. As a result, we have measure and cut to get the plywood to lie straight. In addition, students learned to use power saws, nail guns, caulking guns, and chalk lines. I think we were concerned with our deliberate speed, but Joe, who was directing our work pointed out that it was better to do it right than to have someone to have to come behind us to correct our mistakes.

After lunch Michaela took a bad fall and busted up her leg just below the knee. I took her and Trevor to Tulane Hospital, where after two hours, the emergency room staff advised her to go elsewhere to get the stitches her leg required. I picked them up and drove them over to the Ochsner Hospital branch in Jefferson Parish, where we are staying. After an hour, she was taken back where she was patched up. Happily, the folks at Operation Helping Hands sent us three plates of a ham, beans and rice, and spinach dinner. It was great, especially after such a trying day.new-orleans-2009-057

Well after dinner, about of the third of the group returned to New Orleans to listen to music or just walk around. I did a little of both, but ended up with the Jazz Vipers at the Spotted Cat. They were at their spirited best. A number of the students were able to get in and get a real picture of live music, Frenchmen Street style. We reluctantly left before the end of the first set, but 6:00am comes early and a little rest could come in handy.

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