As Johnny McDaniel watched the media coverage of Katrina’s wrath from his Connecticut home, he says he felt compelled to help. So he dropped everything and flew to New Orleans.
“Just coming to a state that is still part of the United States and I saw trash everywhere but no people,” he said.
McDaniel was in awe. As a volunteer, he first began gutting homes without even knowing who he was helping.
“We saw pictures of families, and their wedding pictures. Some people left their wedding rings and other things in their house that they didn’t even have a chance to take with them,” McDaniel said.
He said he was overcome with emotion, but at the same time, motivated to help these communities rebuild. He stayed for nine years volunteering.
“Over the last 10 years, in the Gulf region, over 40,000 Americorps volunteers have served, and these are individuals that have come from all over the country,” Bill Basl said.
Americorps volunteers work with the St. Bernard Project, a non-profit organization.
“We are committed to rebuilding homes for families who owned homes before Katrina,” St. Bernard Project Director Zack Rosenberg.
Right now, dozens of volunteers are working on what’s called a 48-hour build. They’re feverishly working around the clock on a home in New Orleans East. Within 48 hours, the home will be move-in ready.
“As of yesterday, we’ve rebuilt 614 houses. That’s good. For those families, it’s a big win. Unfortunately, we think there are 5,000 American families who own homes and can’t afford to rebuild them,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg said an estimated 70,000 volunteers have worked selflessly to help this region, but so much more is needed.
“We have 100 families on a waiting list. We’re getting 15 to 20 requests a day from people who own homes,’ he said.
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