We survived the Blitz

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

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Sunday, April 17, 2011

     I have been leading groups of volunteers rebuilding (and building new) homes since Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in 2005.  Most of the time the groups come and stay and work with us for a week at a time.  Usually on Mondays, if we get anything done more than showing people where the job is, where the tools and materials are, where they eat and shower and sleep, we would consider that a plus.  This past week we "blitz built" a house in a week with the help of nearly 300 Navy personnel.  The tough part was that each day of the week we would see a brand new group of 50 or so who came to help build the new home for a fellow military vet.  So we had 5 mondays this week!  I have participated in over twenty or so blitz builds, primarily the Jimmy Carter Work Projects sponsored by Habitat.  My first was near my hometown (I am from Arlington, Va) in Washington, DC.  The JCWP built 10 new homes on Benning Road, SE.  I went down to volunteer and contracted a serious case of "Habit-titus" (got addicted to helping Habitat)  The thing that impressed me the most was how well prepared the site was.  The foundations were in and all of the building materials were stored in containers behind the house with the things you need first at the front and those things you need last (like kitchen cabinets and applinaces) at the back.  Throughout the years, the amount of homes and volunteers to build them has increased.  For example, in Mexico in 2004, 300 homes were built in a week with 10,000 volunteers paying their own way there.  Habitat has lots of practice and experience with blitz builds.  This past week, Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders (FCDR) was host to its first.  We had a bit of short notice that this would be happening, like three weeks.  The week before the build, we had only four volunteers working with us, whose average age was around 60 years old.  The home we would be building was up on piers 13 feet off the ground, and on the Tuesday before the build, there were still no stairs up the the deck.  Also no scaffold on site.  Also nothing laid out for where the walls would go.  No pre-built wall and door parts.  No top and bottom plates Mark-ed up showing where the parts should be nailed together.  No container with parts stacked front to back the way you would need them.  No container for that matter.  Anyway, you get the picture.  We wudn't ready!  The Tuesday before the blitz,, the four of us, Steve, Lee, Nancy and myself began to exert steady pressure and didnt panic.  Although, when I spoke w FCDR president and good friend Bart Tucker on that day(He and wife Heather also were out of town that week for a funeral in California), I told him frankly, there is no way in the world that we are going to pull this off.  I am usually pretty optimistic, but this time, I didnt see it happening.  So on Tuesday we built the stairs, on Wednesday we schlepped the scaffold and started making parts and got the container on site.  On Thursday came the turning point for me.  Our friend from Bay Waveland Habitat, Mark Scott, caved to my pleading and came over from Mississippi for half day thurs and friday and did the layout with me, and through that time together, I got the confidence that well, yea, maybe we could actually make this happen.  One of the things Mark told me that gave me the confidence - he said, you'll be ready, its just a matter of to what degree youll be ready.  I had lots of ideas for making things go smoothly and easy for the volunteers, but was running out of time before the monday morning start.  The other big help that I got from Mark was that I needed to prioritize and get certain things done first, then if we had time left over, do the lesser needed stuff.  So,  the small prep crew of 4 worked up to Saturday and some Sunday and I went home early Sunday (4:30) feeling we were ready.  Monday morning came, the Navy busses pulled up around 8.  We had our kickoff meeting (safety, who would do what) and off we went.  Oh, I forgot to mention, we also had the help of 7 or 8 Seabees for the pre-build prep and couldn't have gotten where we were without them.  Sorry, CJ, Bill and all-  We nailed all the wall parts together and stood em up.  After lunch, began setting trusses, the top part of which would be 30 feet off the ground.  Didnt quite make the goal of blacking in the house first day but did on the second day, so the mechanical trades and drywall had to slip a day.  By weeks end on Friday, the exterior siding (horizontal Hardi siding), windows and roof shingles were installed and the scaffold struck (no pun intended, Lee)  Inside, the drwall was hung, finshed and painted, the laminateflooring installed and the doors and trim started.  I did some therapy on Saturday, after the crowds had dispersed and hung the kitchen cabinets.  Did I mention I like doing kitchens?  The Navy folks all seemed to have a great time and many expressed an interest to return and help out some more.  Let's see.
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Bob on

Awesome job Pops! Sounds like you're doing a great job on the logistics side of things. Keep up the good work!

Wanda Wood on

Great job! Is Malcolm"s house finished or close?

petersalemme on

Hi Wanda- We've been off Malcolms for 2 weeks but started back yesterday and hope to wrap him up this week. When are you coming back to help?

Sharon on

Great job Peter and the gang! Thanks for all the pictures of the build. I'll be doing my first blitz build in October in Minden. It's awesome to see how it is done. Any news on Herman's house?

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