Overview – Day 5

Here comes the rain

Mud and puddles in Pascagoula reflect a volunteer on the roof Thursday as work resumed after a fierce morning thunderstorm that swept through the Gulf Coast from Texas. Volunteers worked inside until the sun returned. Photo by Ezra Millstein
Overview – Day 5 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Waiting out the rain

Lightning. Thunder. High winds. Tornado warnings. Rain, rain and rain.

Who invited them to the 25th Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project? They sure weren’t welcome to stay. But the wild storm did blow out of Texas across the Gulf Coast Thursday morning, trying to drench the plans of Habitat homeowners, volunteers and affiliates from Houston to Mobile.

The storm delayed building in some places, moved outdoor events inside, and rearranged or reshuffled schedules, but volunteers would not be denied. Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast moved inside while the storm front passed. The Carters smiled and greeted volunteers and homeowners in the ReStore in Covington instead of at the build site, which was shut down because of fallen trees and lost power.

By afternoon, prayers, determination and enthusiasm surely had something to do with bringing back the sun at the host site.

An early finale at the Framing Frenzy
Wednesday ended up being the final day of work at Biloxi’s Framing Frenzy. The storms hit the beachside site and, with Friday set aside as a clean-up day there, the decision was made to halt frame construction.

Still, in only three full days of work, volunteer crews managed to frame 37 houses that will be used by HFH of the Mississippi Gulf Coast throughout the rest of the year.

Thursday’s storms also meant the week’s closing ceremony took place in the Beau Rivage Resort’s Magnolia Ballroom rather than outdoors at Yankie Stadium.

Passing the test

Thursday morning’s storms weren’t hurricane-strength, but they were the first tests of inclement weather for Habitat’s new homes being constructed along the Gulf. And it will certainly take a lot more than thunderstorms to harm these houses.

Keith Schuler, 44, is the house leader at 607 Roy Street in Biloxi. “Some of the volunteers have joked that this is basically a metal house with a little bit of wood thrown in,” he said. “They’re not too far off!”

He’s right. Steel rods have been inserted in corners, metal brackets connect framing pieces all over the home and special sheathing was used in the walls.

HFH St. Tammany West: Photos despite rain
Covington, La.
— Approximately 150 volunteers have spent the week building 10 houses in a Habitat neighborhood tucked back in the piney woods of the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. By Thursday afternoon, the houses were in various states of completion, with a flurry of sawdust and activity all around. A large group of students from Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., were hard at work. “I had expectations of what this trip would be like,” said one graduating senior. “But now I have a whole new set of ideas about what things can be.”

Charles Certain, who owns a Habitat house in Covington’s Hope Village, helped visitors and volunteers reach the site, driving a golf cart up and down the gravel road. “I’m just here to share my thoughts with all these good people and to help out however I can,” he said. The Certain family will celebrate its one-year anniversary in their Habitat home at the end of May. “These good people come down to work, and I wanted to be here to say thanks.”

Storms rolled in Thursday night, cutting power to the site, so construction halted on Friday morning. The affiliate made more than 300 phone calls to move photographs with the Carters inside to the ReStore in Mandeville. Volunteer coordinator Sara Casetta personally made more than 230 phone calls redirecting every volunteer with the change in plans.

When one homeowner family indicated that her children were joining her in the photo, President Carter asked, “Is the whole front row your family?” Indicating a volunteer at row’s end, he inquired, “Are you part of the family?”

“Oh, we’re all family now, sir,” she said.

Hattiesburg Area HFH: Build goes on
Hattiesburg, Miss.
—“I’m in the middle of a tornado watch!” said Andrea Dixon, executive director for Hattiesburg Area HFH, as her day began. The storm passed through Hattiesburg by midday, and workers climbed back up to set trusses and make progress on the three homes started Monday.

Marvin Hayes, one of the new homeowners, is particularly excited about the project. Since Hurricane Katrina blew a tree into the building where he lives, Hayes has been renting a room that was not designed to accommodate his wheelchair. The roof leaks and he has also been preparing meals on a hot plate because his stove was removed due to a gas leak.

Construction leaders set up an area where Hayes could saw lumber on the work site, and Dixon said “he was thrilled.”

Friends from the Salvation Army also came out to the site to help. In addition to sending volunteers, the Salvation Army has provided breakfast each day, along with snacks, juice and water.

Another home holds great joy for an anonymous donor in California. She grew up in the Hattiesburg area and has provided the funding for a home in memory of her parents.

Bayou Area HFH: A later work shift

Thibodaux, La. —
With five dedications planned for the evening and the work sites shut down at the beginning of the day because of weather, volunteers simply extended their day.

“You can’t keep good people down,” said Jeremy Becker, executive director of Bayou Area HFH. “We have had a lot of great volunteers come through here, but this bunch is the best,” he said of the group assembled from many locations. “They want to get the job done. Their biggest complaint is that we feed them too much!”

HFH of Metro Jackson: Six home dedications

Jackson, Miss. — Despite the morning weather and the challenge of numbers, by the time the sun came out, HFH of Metro Jackson had done six home dedications in 55 minutes. At mid-afternoon they were planning two more, along with eight dedications Friday. They also did a site blessing for a new plot of land called Park View Place, where eight Habitat homes will be built.

Staff and board members took turns leading the dedications — reading Scripture and offering a prayer of blessing for each house.

On Saturday night, local singing artist Dorothy Moore will close the week with a concert.

HFH of Jefferson County: Different house
Beaumont, Texas
— Rain halted outdoor work on the two houses designated as Carter Work Project homes, but the visiting volunteers wanted to keep busy. And so, they shifted to a nearby Women Build project where there was interior work to be done.

HFH of Greater Baton Rouge: Seeing the sites

Baton Rouge, La. — Because of the rain and storm threats, construction was canceled, and so volunteers from 200 American Baptist Churches USA set out to see the sights in Baton Rouge.

Five of the seven houses being constructed have roofs, and volunteers are in good spirits. “They have been very flexible,” said Lynn Clark, development director for HFH of Greater Baton Rouge.

Pam Campbell, Shala Carlson, Teresa K. Weaver, Susan Stevenson and local affiliates worked together on this report.