United Methodist Men member Bob Clark was the major part of the program for the First United Methodist Church’s Labor Day Saturday breakfast yesterday.
He and Abi Carlson told of how 35 went from Crystal Lake to New Orleans this summer on a mission trip.
Some of the Crystal Lake group helped clean up and gut a home.
Everything was carted out and put on the street for eventual disposal.
“We saw a wedding video, pictures, a prom dress, everything,” Carlson said.
“We just ripped every single thing in the house out and left it out front on the street.”
“They took out a high school football uniform, little angles,” Clark added.
One day the owner watched as his family’s worldly possessions were taken in wheelbarrow loads to the curb.
He managed to salvage some financial records and the Bible that his father had given him.
The team members worked one-half hour in hazmat suits and then had one-half hour off.
And, it was hot.
“You know it’s hot when the locals are carrying gallon jugs of water,” Clark explained.
Teenager Carlson, who had gone on a similar trip last year, offered comparisons.
“What I was doing was taking out the walls and cleaning the kitchen.
“We were no longer allowed to use black trash bags. We had to use white ones, so people could see through them (to see what was inside.)
“The first year, they didn’t know all the precautions that should be taken. We did a lot of the mold cleansing.
“They didn’t let us do that this year.”
The first home she worked on only had “2 or 3 feet of water.”
She told of the danger of refrigerators.
A lot had been filled with food prior to the hurricane.
“If we even smelled a drop of that refrigerator, you’d be sick for a week,” an ACORN worker told them.
The Methodists worked through a group called ACORN.
To qualify for help, a family had to agree to move back to New Orleans.
The house house-guttings are valued at $10-12,000.
In addition to cleaning up the home, some teens volunteered at a summer camp for 10-12 kids.
“The first two days I got to hand out with the Kids Club,” Carlson said. “At first, they were kind of shy. Then, they warmed up.
“The worst thing I experienced was the effect it had on the children. It was like they were bi-polar.
While they were playful with Carlson, a boy was spitting on the next group and saying “four-letter words they shouldn’t know.”
“This kid described someone having been shot from his house—something a kid shouldn’t know.”
She said they took a little time to warm up to the Crystal Lake teens, but, once they did they were quite friendly.
Carlson also visited a nursing home where “I gave ladies manicures.”
“The 9th ward is like driving through a weed field, just a house here and there.
“You see vacant lots and the only way our could tell a house had been there was a porch and steps. 95% of the houses are gone or ramshackled.
“In the 9th ward you saw no (high water) lines (on the houses). You saw stuff on the roof.
“We heard about people getting trailers, but not being able to get electricity for six months.
“Parts of the 9th ward had just received water 18 months after the hurricane.
“The 9th ward is very upset when people drive through. They didn’t want people driving through and looking at them.”
Clark said that cars could “get stoned.”
He told of a church halfway up the hill to which looters had tied their boats. The looters chased the pastor out when he came back to get the Sacraments, their boom boxes blaring in one of the rooms.
“The coolest thing I saw there was a row of brightly painted houses,” Carlson said. “Blue, orange, yellow. It was the heart of New Orleans.”
The Methodist Church’s is only one of the local efforts to continue to help Louisiana and Mississippi recover two years after Hurricane Katrina’s destruction.
“Everything that is being done now is from the ecumenical community—very little form state or local government,” Clark said.
“You look at some houses and say the best thing to do would be to bulldoze them down.
“There are still National Guard driving around in New Orleans,” he added.