October Build 2016 Mobilizes 500 Volunteers

Over the course of the first two weekends of October, Rebuilding Together New Orleans will lead 500 volunteers in the restoration of eight homes and one non-profit center across New Orleans.

October Build 2016 will take place October 7 and 8, and October 14 and 15. The 500 volunteers will work on homes from the Bywater to Mid City to help make needed repairs and ensure that the homeowners will be able to age in place safely.

Since 1988, during the first two weekends of October, local businesses and organizations have made vital home repairs for low-income homeowners during Rebuilding Together New Orleans’ annual October Build. This community build initiative is part of RTNO’s commitment to the city and to civic action in New Orleans.

Here is a look at eight homeowners that will all benefit from October Build 2016.

Ernest Watson, Bywater

Ernest Watson has lived in his historic home in the Bywater neighborhood since 1984. Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Watson didn’t leave the city until he joined the Army in 1953. He served for 20 years including in the Korean War following a long line of veteran family members.

The Honor of Serving a VeteranA few years ago, a fire broke out due to a lightbulb overheating. Firefighters had to run the hose through the gable window and the home was damaged. Mr. Watson was able to repair his home to move back in but many needed repairs were not able to be completed or were done incorrectly. With the aggressive revitalization of the Bywater neighborhood, Mr. Watson has been concerned that if repairs are not completed, he may be pushed out of the house he has called home for over 30 years.

While the exterior was repaired recently after the fire, improper installation of HDLC appropriate gutters deteriorated the home with water rot within a few years. Water has been running behind the gutters and has led to the rotting of the shutters, window trim, and siding. In addition, a lack of safe entrances and exits has made daily errands difficult for Mr. Watson.

In the interior, a bathroom with unfinished walls and exposed plumbing is a breeding ground for mold and leading to further deterioration of the home.

“I am very grateful that volunteers will help me with work. I used to do all the home maintenance myself but have been unable to keep up after the fire,” Mr. Watson said.

Lillie Mae Bolding, Hollygrove-Dixon

Sixty-seven year old Lillie Mae Bolding has lived in the Hollygrove-Dixon area her entire life, and she is the second generation of her family to live in New Orleans. She has been in her home for 34 years. She has two children and four grandchildren, with another grandchild on the way. In addition to her children and grandchildren, she visits often with her sister who lives in New Orleans East and stays in close contact with her nephews and nieces.

8727 Marks StreetBefore retiring, she worked as a cement mason and in bridge construction in the New Orleans area with her father in law. She retired to help take care of her mother, whom she moved into the other side of her double home before she passed.

Ms. Bolding relishes retirement by enjoying her home, visiting her beloved grandchildren in Texas, and being involved in her community neighborhood. She volunteers her time and her love of cooking by making meals for the homeless program at her church. Her favorite meals to cook are spaghetti with red sauce and baked ham.

Another client referred Ms. Bolding to RTNO, and after a long and patient wait, we were able to be pair her with multiple teams for October Build 2016. Ms. Bolding is very friendly and enormously proud of the home and has been worried about being unable to physically or financially keep up with the maintenance of her house.

With the help of volunteers, Ms. Bolding will receive much needed assistance to bring the exterior back to life and with energy-efficiency repairs to bring down her Entergy bills that hover around $300 a month in the summer. Any reduction in utility bills will help her remain financially independent on her limited income through social security and her retirement pension.

Geraldine Smith, Freret

Geraldine Smith is from a large New Orleans family and one of nine children. At 85 years old, she has lived in the Freret neighborhood for over 50 years, and she purchased her home in 1972. The street is home to many longtime residents that have been there together as neighbors for decades.

2418 General PershingMs. Smith and her late husband raised their four children there, who now live all over the nation. Currently, her granddaughter and a new great grandchild are living with Mrs. Smith to help care for her. Ms. Smith is very involved with her church at Blessed Sacrament and has a little dog that she adores named Ziggy.

Hurricane Katrina retired Ms. Smith from her career in housekeeping, as caring for her home renovations was top priority. Post storm, Ms. Smith had her entire home gutted and rebuilt. A detached gutter has been directly diverting water to the siding, which has led to water rot of the siding.

In addition, temporary stairs on the back and front exits were installed when the house was rebuilt and are starting to sag. The front porch is also lacking handrails to secure the area and the floor boards are warping with time.

The improvements to her home provided by volunteers, she says, will “greatly put her mind at ease.” Preserving her home is important to Ms. Smith, and these repairs will not only improve her quality of life, but will also help preserve the family’s memories and retain the character of the home that has served as a family landmark for many years.

Gwendolyn Nora, Gentilly

Gwendolyn Nora has lived in her Gentilly home for almost 20 years. In the home, she and her late husband raised six sons. Mrs. Nora describes the neighborhood of Gentilly as “quiet and lovely.” Over the years, she has lost two children and also her husband to cancer in 2002. After the passing of her husband, she retired from working at a local university.

6128 PaintersNow in retirement, she takes ample time relaxing inside her home and on her front porch. When she can, she entertains her 14 grandchildren when they visit. On occasion, she visits her sister and friends and attends a local Baptist church on Sundays.

After Hurricane Katrina, Mrs. Nora was able to complete home repairs to move back home. However, the siding was not installed or prepped correctly, so the paint started to bubble and peel quickly after and the siding started to detach. She was distraught to watch the exterior deteriorate and not have the financial or physical ability to address it herself.

The installation of grab bars, handrails, and new stairs will allow Mrs. Nora to age in her home independently and to safely leave the home for errands.

Thanks to volunteers, exterior repairs will not only revitalize the home but also provide a solid building envelope to reduce air infiltration. Improving energy-efficiency in the home will give Mrs. Nora more financial independence on her limited income allocated through Social Security.

Jean Selders and Thomas Demaria, Freret

Ms. Jean is the primary caretaker of Mr. Tommy, who owns his family home in Freret where he was raised. Ms. Jean first met the Demaria family when she joined her father on shifts in maintaining the Valence Cemetery across the street.

209-11 ValenceAfter some conversations, one day, Tommy’s father asked Ms. Jean is she could watch over his sick wife while we went to complete errands with Tommy. This soon grew to a regular job between Ms. Jean and the Demaria family. Unfortunately, Mr. Demaria fell ill soon after his wife passed and asked Ms. Jean if she would take care of his son Tommy, who has developmental and physical disabilities, when he passed. Ms. Jean humbly accepted and obtained POA over Tommy and moved in permanently to the Valence home.

Before the home on Valence Street, Ms. Jean lived in the Ninth Ward, but her home was destroyed from Hurricane Katrina. She was unable to rebuild her home, and one day while collecting some donations from the Annunciation Mission, she become motivated by all the volunteers she saw staying there that came down for the recovery process. She started working for the Annunciation Mission and thoroughly enjoyed cooking for the volunteers and getting to know them. This is where she met a longtime RTNO volunteer Diane, and they soon became friends. During Diane’s last volunteer trip with RTNO, she told us about her friend and the repairs needed on her home because she knew Ms. Jean would not reach out for assistance on her own.

The home is in need of many repairs to remove safety hazards that have resulted in both Mr. Tommy and Ms. Jean falling on numerous occasions, exacerbating their health and mobility issues. There is a lack of stable handrails in the front, missing steps on the back exits, and a makeshift ramp on the side that is very dangerous.

Thanks to volunteers, the home will be revitalized with safe at home modifications, energy-efficiency repairs, and beautification efforts to help both of them to regain their physical and financial independence.

Yvonne Montana, Desire

Yvonne Montana inherited the home on Louisa Drive from her late mother. Her mother, Ms. Irma, fell ill while she was evacuating from Hurricane Katrina in Texas and was not able to return to the city before she passed away. Without a will, it took many years for Ms. Montana to get the family home through the legal process of succession, even though she was an only child. Due to the many years of the succession process, she was unable to apply for any type of assistance for recovery.

3100 Louisa DriveBefore retirement, Ms. Montana worked for Lighthouse for the Blind and as a night auditor. When she came back to New Orleans in 2007, she was unable to find work again and officially retired. In her free time, she likes to visit with her daughter, son, and three grandchildren. She also enjoys reading and trying out new recipes.

Ms. Montana’s only source of income is through social security, and almost 75 percent of that goes towards the rising rents that are in New Orleans. Due to this expense, she often foregoes her utilities that she worries she cannot pay in the drafty rental she lives in currently.

Catholic Charities referred Ms. Montana to RTNO, and she has patiently waited for many years while enough funding was secured to complete repairs. Even though it has been over 11 years since she has been displaced, she will tell you that she is a survivor and remains optimistic. In addition to the effort of rebuilding her home, she also has been cancer free since 2000 after a four year battle.

Finally, funding has been secured to complete the repairs to the home. However, volunteers are needed to complete the exterior prep so the contractor can start work since we have raised just enough for the rebuilding portion. October Build will be the kickoff to the long awaited start to bring Ms. Montana back home.

Helen Thompson, Mid City

Ms. Thompson has enjoyed a quiet life in her Mid City neighborhood for the past 21 years. She has many cherished memories of raising her three children in the home and entertaining her three grandchildren as often as she can. She is very close to her family and her sons help take care of her when college is not in session.

3039 LafitteBefore retirement, Ms. Thompson worked in the hospitality industry and enjoyed getting to know many people. Currently, she likes to spend her time being an involved member at the Spanish Street Church of God in Christ and playing with her dog, Malvo.

While Ms. Thompson repaired the damage flood waters caused after Hurricane Katrina, it was a long and arduous process due to contractor fraud that she is still trying to resolve and encompasses some of the repairs that will be completed. Improperly installed siding has resulted in air infiltration that has led to the home being uncomfortably hot in the summer months, which exacerbates her medical issues.

Like many homes, the house on Lafitte was not built with aging homeowners in mind. Ms. Thompson relies on an oxygen tank and has very limited mobility which increases the chances of injury due to safety hazards within her home. A precarious back porch is in need of replacement, so Ms. Thompson has safe access to her washer and dryer located in a back utility shed. In addition, the non-code compliant steps and handrails are dangerous when her grandchildren come over to play.

Ms. Thompson is most excited for the exterior paint she has been trying to get restored for a number of years. Thanks to volunteers, she will have a safe and beautiful house to age in for years to come.