em>SPECIAL GUEST BLOG FROM MIMI CASTALDI, AARP
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had a devastating impact on St. Barnard Parish, LA. All 27,000 homes were uninhabitable after the storm. More than three years later, only one-third of the residents have returned home.
One of my friends suggested we get a group together to help and the next thing you know, seven of us from DC are down in Louisiana this week helping rebuild houses with the St. Bernard's Project. You can sign up right on the web and choose your dates. When we got here they had an orientation and we met volunteers from around the country. There was even another AARP member from Philadelphia who was on her FIFTH trip!
It has been an amazing experience. We heard the story of one of the residents who was stranded on a roof top for six days waiting for help. We saw house after house that still had the markers from when crews in after the storm.
Our group spent the day in a house that is midway through reconstruction. The owner currently lives about 35 minutes away, but he's eager to return to his home, his neighborhood and his family. Crews of volunteers before us stripped the house down to the studs, treated it to get rid of mold, and installed drywall. It was our job to tape and spackle (or mud) the drywall to create a smooth surface. None of us had much experience, but we had a leader from AmeriCorps who patiently showed us what to do, and monitored it to make sure we got it right. By days end I had the hang of it, and felt like I was making a difference.
As a special treat, we were lucky enough to be able to visit a family who had just returned to their home. The family was so happy they cooked us jambalaya for dinner. I told them that somehow that didn't seem fair since they've been living in this harsh reality for years, and we just arrived. She said, just tell your friends what you're doing and that we need their help too.
To get started, visit St. Bernard's Project today.
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