NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Instead of enjoying a day off, volunteers with Rebuilding Together New Orleans spent Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day working.
Kat Schweitzer, a program manager for the non-profit, said it’s important to spend the day of remembrance with intention.
“Martin Luther King Day is a day on not a day off,” Schweitzer said. “While our members are serving anywhere from 10 to 12 months this is a great day for volunteers to come out.”
Rebuilding Together New Orleans is part of Preservation Resource Center whose mission is to, “promote the preservation, restoration, and revitalization of New Orleans historic architecture and neighborhoods.” With the help of volunteers with AmeriCorps, they group spent Monday (Jan. 21) building a free wheelchair ramp for 84-year-old veteran Clarence Gabriel.
Grabriel’s daughter, Melissa Butler, said the Air Force veteran has lived with her for a year and suffers from dementia and arthritis.
“I appreciate everyone. I really do. From the bottom of my heart,” Butler said.
For the most part, Butler said her dad stays indoors, unless she is taking him to doctor’s appointments.
“We were limited on a lot of things we could bring him to,” Butler said. “Because we have to bring him down. He has to struggle to get down and I hated to see that."
When Gabriel does leave the house, Butler and her son would carry him down the stairs.
Schweitzer said building this ramp will carry a weight off the family.
“This is going to, one give him more independence," Schweitzer said. "Two, it’s going to make it easier on his family, and three it’s going to really make sure that he’s safe in his home.”
Building a ramp for Gabriel is just a portion of how volunteers around New Orleans spent the holiday. At City Park, students from Tulane, Dillard, Loyola and University of New Orleans laid 25 yards of mulch and are planting 300 agapanthus plants, a project City Park employee Tyler Havens said would not be possible without the extra hands.
“This is one of those projects we simply wouldn’t be able to get it done for a long time without volunteers," Havens said. “It really helps especially with these large planting projects to kind of get everything in the ground.”
Tulane sophomore Erin Bender said working a City Park on a holiday is just a small thing compared to the legacy of Dr. King.
“I think this is the least that I could do to honor Dr. MLK Jr.’s legacy. He did so much for our country. He did so much for discriminated peopled,” Bender said.
Students from the different schools said the work gives them an opportunity to get out of their bubble and meet different people.
“I get to see different points of view. Different people’s backgrounds. We get to talk about what this day means to everybody," Bender said.
Back at Melissa Butler’s home, the ramp is set to be completed this week. Butler said the first place she’s taking her dad is to church.
“And be outside. He can see the view. He can look around and see the whole view. He doesn’t have to just focus on St. Bernard," said Butler.