Clay and Kathy Smilie
We currently reside in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and are long-time Habitat for Humanity and Red Cross volunteers. We retired early from careers in engineering and information technology.
Our hobbies and interests include boating, travel, Habitat construction, Red Cross disaster response, church home repair mission trips and gardening. Disaster Corps has given us the opportunity to combine our interests.
Our Disaster Corps training took place in New Orleans and Houston. We assisted the construction staff in Houston as crew leaders while several collegiate challenge groups were volunteering over spring break. Being previous residents of Houston, it was good to return and give back to that community.
We were deployed by the Red Cross to Joplin, Missouri, after a tornado struck in May 2011. Seeing the devastation and getting to know the people made us want to help beyond the initial disaster response.
In August, our Habitat disaster response was to Hackleburg, Alabama, as house leaders for their two-week blitz build. Hackleburg is a small town that lost most of its homes and services to a tornado. Our deployment allowed us to be a part of the next step in the recovery of a community affected by the spring tornadoes.
Four houses were constructed during this two-week build with as many as 150 volunteers on a single day. We helped accomplish the goal, which was not only about building these four houses, but also about providing hope that the community would be rebuilt. We met many wonderful volunteers and grateful homeowners that shared our desire to get the community back on its feet.
People in these disaster-affected areas face many challenges to “normal” living for months or even years. Things may not be convenient with many miles to hardware stores, grocery stores, etc. You may face many of these same challenges while on deployment. Be resourceful and remain flexible in order to meet the needs of the affiliate and community.
It is very gratifying to help a community rebuild and we hope to continue providing this help.