Monday, February 19, 2007

February 19 The First Real Work Day

The third day of the trip and the first real work day. Ben woke me at 6:48 this morning with a call on my cell phone that the group was heading to breakfast at The Armory. I had 1 hour of sleep the day before, had driven 1200 miles straight through and worked on this blog and pictures until 11:30 last night. I enjoy breakfast, more than the next guy, but I wasn't ready to join the group this morning.

They were through mid morning work before I got to the house at 626 28Th Street. Ben, Casey and Kyle were working there and when I arrived, they were well into it. Walking in the house was like entering a typical construction site. Tool boxes, empty coffee cups, water bottles and Krispy Kreme doughnut bags, with no doughnuts in them...those son of a guns!

I was impressed with how professional everything looked. These guys could work on my house! Kyle was installing trim in the bathroom while Casey and Ben were hanging the utility closet door. They would be at the house all day.

After snapping a few pictures ( see ) I drove across town and north to 12143 McCandlees Drive where Linda, Abby, Joel, Greg and Frieder were working on Barb's house. The drive was a joy as the sun was shinning, it was about 60 degrees, I had the car windows open and a country music station (go figure, country music in Mississippi) jamming on the radio.

As I pulled into the driveway at the McCandlees house Greg and Joel were sitting out front, preparing to eat lunch. Frieder was along side the house talking on his cell phone. I walked around the back of the house and entered the rear entrance, there I found the two women were working laying down the drop cloths to protect the new carpet from any spillage that might happen during the painting session planned for after lunch.

Linda and Abby made short work of the drop cloths and soon joined the boys out front for lunch. What a great day! We northerners, you could just tell, were loving this beautiful southern sun and 60 degree temperatures.

Frank and Mark had just left here so I missed them, but this group had a full afternoon planned with painting and some window sill work, additionally, I believe I overheard Linda explain they would be moving some trash to the street.

Time for me to leave. I had loaded my bike into the van for the trip down here and I was not going to let this day go by without spending some time on my bicycle. So I headed back to the Days Inn. Changed into, get this those of you folks still stuck up there in the wild north, I changed into my cycling shorts and t-shirt, got the bike out of the van, did a little prep work and headed out on a ride that ended up being about 15 miles around town. Probably I spent more time talking to folks I met and snapping pictures than I did riding, but it was great to be on the bike.

I first rode over to the third house off Russell Ave where Frank and Mark were to be repairing a roof. This roof had been installed earlier by another relief team and the new roof leaked. The Pathways team's job was to make it so it doesn't. It must not have been a tough task as by the time I got there Frank and Mark were done and gone.

My afternoon ride was great and I am going to script an entry on my other blog to cover this ride as I would like this space to be predominately about the Pathways efforts here in Gulfport. But, I met some interesting folks and learned more of Katrina.

The team finished work and Ben called me around 5:30 and they were heading over to supper at the Armory. I was working on loading pictures onto the Pbase site and couldn't join them. However, later, around 7:45 Ben again called only now I was at "Chung's Gardens" eating my supper. Ben said the group was going to take time they had set aside for devotions, to visit Arlene Snyder. Arlene owned one of the first houses Mark and Frank worked on last year when they were down here and both had become friends with her.

Arlene lives on the "Southside of the Tracks". This was the portion of Gulfport that was, basically, obliterated by Katrina. Where neighbors once had houses around Arlene's, there are, at best, empty shells and, at worst, empty land. We met with this gentle, sensitive and outgoing woman for an hour and 45 minutes while each in the group were glued to every word of the stories that came from her experiences since August 29, 2005. We will never be able to fully empathize with what these people down here experienced and are still enduring. She served cake, and gave us all big hugs as we left. Before we left she requested Frank pray. We all stood, held hands and prayed as Frank led us.

The group had to be back to the "compound", as they are now referring to it, before curfew.

Tomorrow I'll join them for breakfast. "Lord willing and the creek don't rise"

Go to this link to see photographs from today

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