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Walls up on Operation Home Delivery’s largest project to date

by Kim Agricola

 

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Future homeowner Danielle Swan works on her Habitat home in the Bayou Blue development.

On January 18, the first wall of the Bayou Blue development went up in Operation Home Delivery’s single largest project to date. Bayou Blue is located approximately nine miles from Bayou Area HFH in Thibodaux, La. The affiliate services both Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, which suffered substantial devastation due to the 2005 hurricanes.

Before the hurricanes hit, the Thibodaux affiliate built twelve houses on average each year. Now, through its hurricane recovery efforts, the affiliate plans to build 100 houses this year alone. Jeanne Autin, executive director of Bayou Area HFH, said they hope to complete 25 houses in the Bayou Blue development by June 2006.

Bayou Blue was in development before the storms hit. After the hurricanes struck the Gulf, the developer sold the land to Habitat for several hundred thousand dollars under the market value. It was ready for immediate building, with infrastructure—including plumbing and paved roads—in place.

Bayou Area HFH recruits volunteers for the project on a weekly and biweekly basis, said Autin. More than 380 volunteers, including locals and partner families, have participated in the project since it began. Other volunteer support includes RV Care-A-Vanners, AmeriCorps members, corporate sponsors, Habitat board members and affiliate executive directors.

Bill Moriarty and his wife, France, volunteered as Bayou Blue’s job site coordinators. They live full-time out of their RV, traveling as volunteer site coordinators for Operation Home Delivery. Volunteering with Operation Home Delivery is a natural fit for them, said Bill, who is a retired contractor from Florida. The Moriartys also have previous experience working with Habitat’s disaster relief projects and large blitz builds.

Danielle Swan, one of Bayou Blue’s future Habitat homeowners, will be moving into her new home with her 4-year-old daughter. Swan’s public housing apartment suffered significant roof and interior damage from Katrina and Rita. When Swan told her daughter that they would soon be moving into a house of their own, Swan said her daughter immediately began packing up her possessions.

“Thank you just doesn’t seem adequate,” Swan said. “I’m going to try to do for others what they’ve done for me, to help their dreams come true.” Swan has been building alongside volunteers who have come from all parts of the country.

“If you can help just one or two people build a house, then you’ve made some move ahead,” said Jeanetter Steiner, an RV Care-A-Vanner from Naperville, Ill., working at Bayou Blue. “There is always hope that things will get better.”

Through Operation Home Delivery, Habitat for Humanity plans to build 1,000 homes to assist hurricane recovery in the Gulf region.

Kim Agricola is a writer/editor for Habitat for Humanity International.