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UL team

Every year, Rebuilding Together Acadiana teams up with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette AmeriCorps members to provide critical services across Acadiana. Since the beginning of September we have already completed the construction of two wheelchair ramps as a part of our Ramps&Rails program. UL AmeriCorps members will assist us in a broad range of projects throughout their service terms, but they truly make up the back bone of our Ramps&Rails team. We look forward to being a host site for members every year, and UL members bring a fresh perspective and vitality each day they serve on our sites. Over the upcoming Fall semester, we will host seven UL AmeriCorps members.

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Rebuilding Together Acadiana teamed up with Sears to provide critical home repairs to U.S. Army veteran, Mr. Henry, and his wife in Crowley, LA as a part of the Sears Heroes At Home Program. It is a national program designed to assist low-income veterans in the community and their families. Since the inception of the program in 2007, over 1,700 projects and nearly 42,000 volunteers have donated 333,000 hours to support veterans and their families through critical home repairs.

Mr. Henry and Mrs. Laura are native to the Acadiana area and the city of Crowley. They have lived in their home for almost thirty years now, and raised their three children there. Although Mrs. Laura is fourteen years younger than her husband, she likes to say that it is he who has the better memory of the two. They are a military family with two of their children also having served or currently serving. Mr. Henry is a cancer survivor and a proud homeowner. He has watched his community change over the years, but he has always been able to maintain his home on his own. His wife, Laura, also suffers from Lupus and issues related to high blood pressure. She has a pacemaker and a heart monitor that must stay plugged in at all times. The old carpeting in their house has negatively impacted their health, and after having their house lifted cracks developed in the walls and tile floors, creating a trip hazard. Over the years, Mr. Henry’s back has not been what it used to be and things are harder for him to maintain alone.

 

Rebuilding Together Acadiana was able to tear out all the old carpeting that went throughout the house and replace it with a vinyl plank flooring that will not trap dust and other allergens. We repaired a hole in their ceiling that was left after a leak in their roof had previously been repaired. Throughout the process, Mr. Henry worked alongside volunteers, getting rid of clutter around the house where he could. Our youth volunteer team out of Georgia really enjoyed spending time with the couple, even writing them a letter on the last day containing everyone’s signature. Thanks to Sears Heroes at Home, we were able to serve this veteran and his family and provide a safer and healthier home.

 

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Life Teen Restore 2018 kicked off this July, making critical repairs to homes across Acadiana. Over 50 volunteers painted, floored, and trenched their hearts out. They spent four days working in some of the hottest weather South Louisiana has to offer, but by the end of it they left feeling impressed and proud of what they had accomplished. The groups built two handicap accessible ramps, laid flooring, and painted the exterior of houses all in record time. Rebuilding Together Acadiana was proud to host such a great group, and we look forward to seeing them again in the future!

 

Completed Ramp

This month, Rebuilding Together Acadiana had the opportunity to construct a wheelchair ramp for a little boy, named Joey, who was born under difficult circumstances. His mother, Christina, is a nurse in Lafayette, and she met Joey one night while working. She was taking care of him in the NICU, when his biological mother came in to visit. She wanted to turn off Joey’s ventilator and let him go. Christina was heartbroken at the idea, and she and her husband ended up getting their foster parent certification. After spending 125 days in NICU, that sweet little boy went home with them.

Fast forward a bit and they are officially his parents. Joey is now almost 2.5 years old but unable to crawl or walk. James, his father, takes care of Joey most days, but both parents work. Joey has several health issues due to bleeding in his brain. Among his diagnoses is cerebral palsy. He receives regular shots of Botox in his legs and physical therapy in an attempt to loosen his muscles, but for now he must use a wheelchair in order to get around and in order to get to his numerous doctor visits.

James and Christina have ordered Joey his wheelchair, and now they have a completed ramp. Our AmeriCorps members and volunteers were touched to be able to construct this for Joey and with the help of his father, James.

Getting him in and out of the home will now be much easier and safer.

 

In April, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance volunteers from California and Missouri flew to Lafayette to assist Rebuilding Together Acadiana in the ongoing flood recovery effort. They worked on a home in Abbeville, LA for Ms. Alanda, who is affectionately referred to as Aly by friends and neighbors. Each team stayed for one week and drove every day from Lafayette to Abbeville to work on Ms. Aly’s house.

During the storm in August, a tree had fallen on the back part of Ms. Aly’s house, causing rain to fall in her home. Water quickly filled up the space underneath her house and ruined her floors. Although the interior of her house was not affected by rising water, she received enough damage by the rain to make her home uninhabitable. It wouldn’t be until June of 2017, that volunteers taking part in the Eight Days of Hope event would make it to Ms. Aly’s to finally gut the home and remove all of the hazardous materials. Unfortunately once the home was gutted, it revealed issues of delayed maintenance which would need addressing prior to rebuilding. By the end of 2017, Ms. Aly’s house had reached a point where all the walls and cabinets had been rebuilt. Only the finishing touches remained.

When Rebuilding Together Acadiana spoke with Ms. Aly in advance of the volunteers’ arrival, she was overwhelmed with joy. She could see the light at the end of the tunnel. After being displaced from her home for two years, she was ready to move back. Ms. Aly works nights and evenings caring for the elderly, trying to make ends meet. She carries fluid in her spine, which has limited her ability to do much on the home. Undeterred, however, Ms. Aly cleaned behind volunteers during her visits. She even brought her mother and niece to see the progress. Helping homeowners like Ms. Aly is a privilege and a joy for RTA and the volunteers alike. Now that she has returned home, she is excited to have a place for her grand-babies to visit again.

 

In August of 2016, Theresa and Donald Stone were affected by the heavy rain and historic flooding. After their daughter’s house flooded that Friday, their house began to take on water, leaving them with nowhere to turn. Outside, the water was at least fourteen inches high. Mr. Donald placed a pump in the living room and got it down to about two inches by the Sunday afternoon. He cleaned the house and continued to attempt to get the water out for a series of five days by himself, all the while living in the house. For the next two weeks, Mr. Donald had to gut the house in order to prevent the spread and growth of mold. He took great pains to make sure his wife, who suffers from chronic pulmonary disease and lives on an oxygen machine, would not be harmed by the contaminants in the air. ReStore Louisiana showed up with the application for Donald and Theresa to have their house repaired, but after nine months of paperwork, interviews, and a plethora of supervisors with seemingly nothing getting done, Mr. Donald began to lose hope. He called his case manager with UpBring Disaster Response to let them know he wanted to continue on to get his house fixed up even if it took him ten years. That following Monday, representatives from Rebuilding Together Acadiana and the Acadiana Long Term Recovery network showed up to notify him the house would be repaired.

Throughout the repair process, Mrs. Theresa had been living with their daughter since her COPD prevented her from being in the home with all of the dust and debris created by the work. Mr. Donald watched the progression of their house and would sneak in after the volunteers had left to take photos to show Mrs. Theresa. Rebuilding Together Acadiana partnered with volunteers from the Order of Malta and the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to complete the repairs, and Mr. Donald enjoyed having the opportunity to meet people from all over the U.S. and Acadiana who had given their time to help out people in need. He expressed how grateful he was, exclaiming that “some women even took the time to clean out my wife’s flower beds!” His heart was overwhelmed with the kindness of everyone who helped them to get their home back, and said his wife prayed for everyone who walked through the door to lend a helping hand.

 

At the end of the two week journey, Mr. Donald expressed his excitement for his wife to come home and knows she will be filled with joy knowing she can stay in their home of thirteen years once again.

 

It has been a month since record rainfall tragically flooded our state and people are still struggling to recover. The flood waters have receded and Rebuilding Together Acadiana is currently helping in the clean-up process. In partnership with AmeriCorps members through University of Louisiana Lafayette,  NCCC and ADRT and collaborations with other organizations like Lafayette Habitat for Humanity, we have been serving throughout the community to help those whose homes are still being threatened by the after effects of the historic flooding here in Acadiana.

The relief effort is ongoing and Rebuilding Together Acadiana is proud to lead in that effort.  We are preparing for the transition to home rebuilding and are looking forwards to helping families return to their homes and lives!

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