In the shadow of a Central City church, they go to work.
“This is a building that the church bought earlier this year and they’re setting it up for low-income housing,” said Marcos Rucinski of the non-profit group “United Saints.”
Volunteers with the group left their homes elsewhere and traveled to New Orleans to help those in need get a home of their own. Phil Hufnagel came down from Pittsburgh, PA.
“One main reason for me– the weather down here is a lot different than it is in Pittsburgh in December,” Hufnagel.
It is a working holiday during the holidays. United Saints one of several groups in the city doing this work, this season.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Rucinski said. “People need help and I’ve got two hands to help.”
“It feels good,” Hufnagel added. “You know, at the end of the day, you feel like you accomplished something and it’s good to see that this area is coming back from Hurricane Katrina.”
It’s a similar story at a home in Broadmoor. Volunteers with the “Union Reform For Judaism” partnered with the local non-profit group “Rebuilding Together.” Naomi Abelson traveled to New Orleans from New York City to volunteer.
“It’s always been very important to us to incorporate “mitzvah,” which is acts of kindness, into our celebration,” Abelson said. “So, it’s Hanukkah right now and we thought it would be the absolute perfect time to say, ‘how can we extend our joyous holiday season and help those in the community?”
Yet, the volunteers say they don’t see this so much as work during the holidays, but rather, a chance to give a special gift.
“This is a great gift!” said Marisa Menezes, with Rebuilding Together. “And you’re giving it to a complete stranger. So, for me, it’s a great way to celebrate.”
It’s a celebration they to extend to the whole neighborhood, once their work is done and the volunteers head home.
“By doing this kind of work, they’re really helping other community members that will drive by and see, ‘oh, the neighborhood is coming back. You know, I’m going to come back and start to rebuild my house,” Menezes said.
“It feels great, you know, it’s one of those things that we talk about a lot and we donate money to, and we’re happy to do so — but when you actually roll up your sleeves and do the work, it takes on a different meaning,” Abelson said.