Back with Brother Bart in Louisiana

Trip Start Nov 26, 2010
Trip End Nov 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders volunteer lodging

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Saturday, January 29, 2011

     Bart Tucker is a good friend of mine.  I met him back in 1998 or so in Northern Virginia working with the Habitat affiliate there.  He was on the president of the board at that time and was also the house leader on the other half of our duplex while it was under construction in 1999-2000.  HFHNV built 8 townhomes and our was the last to come out of the ground and was a bit behind schedule, so a bunch of the regular volunteers decided to "blitz build" the box of the house (both sides of the duplex) between Christmas and New Year of the Y2K 2000.  It was snowing for part of it and we were working in the dark with lights and it was lots of fun and we gotter dun.  Bart, like many other people in our nation, was deeply moved by the plight of our neighbors immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005.  Within a few weeks after the storm, Bart had put together a group of 7 volunteers and loaded up a borrowed closed trailer (it was from a landscaping company and it had pictures of cows on the side and I think the name was the Mow Cow) with water, food, diapers and medical supplies and headed down to East Biloxi, Mississippi.  One of the volunteers was a nurse and she started a free clinic at Bethel Lutheran Church on Pass Road in Biloxi and that clinic is still operating today (since moved out of the church into a restored and added-on-to building given by the city).  One of the first things Bart did was to connect with the local Habitat affiliate in Biloxi.  Pre Katrina in was kind of a sleepy affiliate, building maybe one house a year, and run by two retired volunteers, Bill and Bill.  They were not really set up to respond to the need that Katrina demanded.  The Bills were glad that we were there and Bart and the first crew stayed for two weeks and began the nasty work of "mucking out houses.  Biloxi had a 26 foot wall of water from the Gulf of Mexico, in the words of one homeowner who rode out the storm, "looked like a bathtub filling up with water".  It was three hours in, three hours out, and most of the homes filled up with 6 to 8 feet of water.  Many of the homes and most of the massive 5 storie casino barges up and floated away, landing in the streets and on top of other buildings.  The first group mucked out 26 houses in the Mississippi hot summer heat.  After the 2 weeks, Bart returned to Virginia and sprang into action, doing what he does the best, talking to people.  I always say his name is Tucker but he's a good talker.  He began raising money and arranging the next group to go down to begin to repair the homes that had been cleaned out.  My first trip down, I took a week vacation from Home Depot, was in November of 2005.  While down there for my second visit in January of '06, I received and inspiration from God and it was this-  I would ask for a transfer from the Depot in Va to the one in Biloxi, and I would work evenings and weekends (40 hrs) and then volunteer with Habitat during the day to rebuild homes in East Biloxi.  At first, I fought the idea a bit.  Ive got a wife and 5 children, a mortgage, and bills and it wasnt a very practical idea. But I kept feeling the nudge  and really felt a calling to do so.  So I did.  I gathered my family and told them that their Dad was going off the war for a year.  Some men go off to Iraq or Afghanistan- I was going off the Biloxi.  so for the first year that I was there, 100% of the donations went directly into rebuilding homes.  No salaries or overhead.  Just wood, windows, siding, shingles and stuff for building back homes for people who needed help.  We would spend approx. $40,000 per home, basically building a brand new home in the old box.  Bart would get churches and groups from around the country to sponsor the homes and get the groups to come down to help and I would arrange for all the materials to be on site and "herd the cats'" or make sure the volunteers knew what they should be doing.  In the 2 1/2 years we were down there we got over 100 families back in their homes.  Since that time, Bart changed flags and became the Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders (therein lies another story for another time- amazing what you can get accomplished as long as youre not concerned with who gets the credit) and move the operation to Orange and Bridge City, Texas after Hurricane Ike soaked those towns.  Brought money and groups there for a year and a half and after Christmas 2010 moved the operation to Plaquimine's Parish, Louisiana which is south of New Orleans, and 5 years after Katrina is still in need of help.  Looking forward to a great week helping Bart and sharing time with Heather and their daughter (18 mos.) Allissa.  I'm planning on teaching Allissa a bunch of new words during the week...Over and out for now-   Peter
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