The amount of tradespeople to go through this house during the final few days was unbelievable. There have been painters, plumbers, flooring crews, tilers, Louie’s crew (who also played a big part in making this almost impossible task a reality), my guys and outside were an army of landscape volunteers. Back home this would be a normal, controlled kind of chaos — the kind we are used to between doing a renovation and taping it for television at the same time — working with two simultaneous sets of deadlines. But here the local crews have never worked with us before. Some are having a hard time grasping the importance of the deadline and the need for everyone to be on their A-game every second they are on site.
A lot of the other contractors with houses in the neighborhood have been stopping by. Weeks ago some of them laughed at our structure and how time consuming building “beyond code” was. Now it seems there are a lot of job offers on the table and many want us to stay down here to help them to complete their builds. It’s amazing how some people’s minds change when they see, first hand, the results of a crew whose only goal is to Make It Right™.
We were initially scheduled to reveal the house to Gloria and her family on Friday, the anniversary of Katrina, be able to pack Saturday and all fly out together on Sunday but we were put under a hurricane warning and soon after a mandatory evacuation was ordered by the mayor and governor. New Orleans was going to be hit by Hurricane Gustav — exactly three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. You’d think we had scripted it.
That kicked us into double time to not only finish the house but also pack our crates of tools that had to be shipped back home as well. Everyone stepped up to the plate and were able to give Gloria, her children and her grandchildren, a safe, affordable, durable, LEED platinum certified, mould- resistant, termite-resistant, geo-thermally heated and solar powered showcase home. It was a great moment for everyone involved. I’m so proud of that house.
Everyone involved in this build, from the biggest donation to the smallest detail, gave this family everything they had in them. There was sweat, there were tears and unfortunately some blood — mostly Damon’s. The experience of going to the south, which is so very close to our own backyard but yet is completely different, has been a great one. We have taught and learned so much from so many down there.
There are many — like Louie and Brian, the Toms, Rusty and Bruce — who I spent so much time with there, that I almost consider them family and a part of my awesome team. I’m relieved to have the build complete and as planned, on time. But I’m saddened that we had to leave in such a hurry and never really had a chance to fully experience everything that this vibrant and historic city had to offer (though I did have my own parade and saw enough of Bourbon St. to last a lifetime, if not two).
This project will forever leave a mixed impression on me of love and hate, successes and struggles but in the end, on the third anniversary of the destructive force of Katrina that shattered so many lives, we, a team of builders and renovators from farther North than many in Louisiana have ever ventured, put one family back together, back on track and gave them a home to be proud of in a city they love and are proud to call home. I am proud to be able to say I was there and I helped.
I don’t think this job would have been possible, in the time frame given, with any other crew; and for that I’ll always be grateful.