Life's only constant is change.

Trip Start Nov 26, 2010
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Trip End Nov 18, 2011


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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

     The only thing constant in life is change.  Last week, the small group of regular volunteers were working to try to get a home finished up for Malcolm Savage.  I had estimated originally that it would take us another two weeks or so to complete.   The two weeks came and went and we still werent quite finished.  They say that we are going to have to amend the expression about life's only absolutes of death and taxes to include construction overruns (both time and $).  So, on Tuesday of last week I get a phone call from Bill Thomassen to drop what we are doing and take the crew to go to a new site.  It was a hard call for me and I wanted to hold out and finish Malcolm's house- we were so close to finishing.  The new site was a new home construction for a Mr. Peter Lee.  He and his wife are Vietnamese.  He was in the South Vietmanese army and was a prisoner of war and endured some horrendous things at the hands of his captors.  His family was one of the four for whom we are building four new homes, all raised up on peirs.   A few weeks back, the decision to "blitz build" Mr. Lee's home came up.  That is, we would build the house in one week.  This current week is Navy Volunteer Week.  There is a Navy base about twenty miles up the road from us here.  Ive particiapted in probably twenty or so blitz builds, primarily with the Jimmy Carter work projects, an annual event where multiple houses are built by volunteers in a week.  For example, in Mexico in 2004 or 5 , over 200 simple decent homes were  built in a week.  The trick is the preparation time before.  The reason that they were able to construct the great Empire State Building in NYC in one year (1929) was that they had planned for it in the previous five years.  So here we were, less than a week before our blitz is to begin.  There are no stairs up to the 13' high deck.  No layout of the walls done.  No wall parts pre-built.   No materials staged and stored in the container, loaded front to back in the order you will need them.  No container for that matter.  Also no scaffolding on the job for a house when completed will be 30 feet off the groud.  All this and we will start receiving 30 to 50 Navy volunteers on Monday (yesterday).  I wasnt panicking yet but I was about to start to.  The Seabees sent an advance team to help out.  Also, I called our good friend Mark Scott, who runs the Habitat affiliate in Bay St. Louis, Ms.  Mark has been there since Katrina and has built over 170 homes in 5 years.  He could blitz build a home with his eyes closed.  I begged and pleaded and Mark was gracious enough to come over Thursday and Friday, two half days and did the layout for us.  On Tuesday, I didnt have much hope in us being able to pull this thing off.  Normally we have 25-30 volunteers working with us, but, as Murphy would have it, the week before our blitz, we had no groups and only four or five regulars whose average age was around 60 years old.  Not exactly scaffold schlepping age.  Anyway, we applied steady pressure and didnt panic, some worked Saturday and Sunday and on 4:30 on sunday, I felt we were prepared enough and I went home.  Yesterday, first day of the build, the big bus pulls up and 35 Navy and Seabee personell pile out and we go to work.  We framed all the interior and exterior walls, painted the hardi plank for the whole house and set the roof trusses.  Hip roof.  Didnt get quite as far as we would have liked.  On most blitz builds, the first day you put up the box of the house, black it in with felt paper on the roof, install door and window and then the subcontractors come in the first night and rough in the elctric, plumbing and HVAC.  Anyway, like a say, steady pressure and dont panic and you can accomplish anything.  Lets see what today brings.  Hopefully a little less wind so that no one goes hang gliding off the edge of the roof with the plywood sheating.
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Comments

Joan on

Peter, You're stories are amazing and I so enjoy hearing from you. Too bad about not being able to see Malcom's house being done but sounds like this project is important as well. So glad to hear that the Navy is contributing to blitz building. A gal from MN wrote and e-mail to our Rabbi and said she & her group had been down recently and sheet rocked Herman's house. Would you happen to know if it's completed yet? Thinking of you and those doing the good work and praying for no hang gliding today or in the near future. Hugs to you. Joan

Ed on

Peter you are an awesome witness to God and the good in all people. As Joan noted your stories are great. I always read them as soon as I see your e-mail notice. It's great news that these new houses are getting accomplished so that FCHDR can meet their project milestones and get the next increment of funding from UW. That area still needs lot's of decent homes for folks displaced by Katrina. up your good works! Ed and Lu

Sharon McFalls on

Great Work You Guys!!

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