IF YOU BUILD IT, I WILL RUN!
On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast area. While the impact of the storm could be felt from Florida to Texas, the most severe loss of life and property occurred in New Orleans, with eighty-percent of the city flooding and some parts under twenty feet of water.
For days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, I sat in front of my television, hypnotized by stories of absolute heartache and images of utter destruction. The man sobbing at having to let go of his wife’s hand as their house split in two. Her final words: “Take care of the children.” And there I sat in my warm house on my comfortable sofa with my remote control, flipping between CNN and the Weather Channel. No burdens. No worries. No hardships.
Donations were being solicited from all directions. Benefit concerts and other charity events were publicized on every network, but I felt compelled to give in a more tangible way, to do something hands-on, to feel a part of the experience. Within a week, I had filled out all the necessary paperwork and was signed up to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Although volunteers were not being accepted at this time, I knew that as soon as the opportunity arose, I would be ready with hammer in hand.
I first arrived in New Orleans on February 19, 2006, almost six months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. With details of upcoming Mardi gras festivities flooding the media, many assumed the situation was improving, and the devastation began to recede into memory. As soon as I stepped foot off the plane, reminders of the destruction were everywhere: abandoned cars on the highways, blue tarps over roofs, houses that were now merely massive piles of debris, mounds of memories. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the widespread destruction I would witness. As I drove through the surrounding communities of St. Bernard Parish and Orleans Parish, I was not prepared for the messages of despair and hopelessness spray-painted on home after home—“R.I.P.” signs, or “dead dog under house” or simply the word “Alive.” I was not prepared for the eeriness that accompanies desertion; a city that once held life and vitality, a mere skeleton of its former self.
As I began my week of volunteer work, I quickly realized that this would be a life-changing experience. This became the first of eight trips to-date that I would make to volunteer with the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. As a volunteer with Habitat, I have done it all—gut houses, pick up debris, build flooring systems, raise walls, put up shingles, paint new homes, landscape yards.
Four years later, New Orleans is still in desperate need of our help. The city cannot be left as an afterthought. On Sunday, February 28, 2010, I will be running in the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon. I am running the 26.2 miles to honor the 1,900 people that lost their lives in this storm. I am also running to help make a difference in the continued rebuilding efforts. It is for this reason that I created this fundraising page to benefit the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH). My personal goal is to raise $5,000 for NOAHH. Any amount you can donate—even $5—will help to make a difference.
The ongoing work of the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity has been critical in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Since Hurricane Katrina, NOAHH has built over 250 new homes in partnership with low-income families. I am honored to have been a part of this process, and I am committed to pounding pavement and nails to help this city and the surrounding communities rebuild.
Please support my running and the rebuilding efforts of NOAHH! Many thanks for your support — and don't forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too!