Discerning Drywall

Written August 27th, 2015

Pastor Ella, Bishop Henry and Rev EllenSt Bernard Project’s 48 hour build took place from 10AM on Wednesday until 10AM on Friday.  We were lucky enough to get the 10AM – 4PM shift both days.  We were at Mr Johnny’s house this week, which is just a block away from the house we worked on in April.  It’s a very interesting house.  It was built in 1972 and the original part of the house looks just like the one next door, but the family added on to it as the years went by and now it can house 3 families.  When Katrina hit, Johnny, his mother and his brother ended up first at the Convention Center, then in Texas where he lives today.  He travels back and forth to New Orleans still, ten years later, while he waits for his house to be finished. Mr Johnny and his son were both on site both days we worked, so we got to hear their stories and talk to them.

Since it was a big house, there were about 25 of us working each day. On Wednesday, we were with a group from a local Whole Foods,  a group of Americorps volunteers from the Texas Conservation Corps and  also a woman from Arlington who was on her 42nd trip. Today, we were with a group from a local event coordination company.  It was interesting to get to work with people from New Orleans. Even one of our site supervisors were from New Orleans.  Since we typically come down during April vacation we usually only see other groups from Massachusetts.

The best part of the 48 hour build is how much work got done on the house between our first and second shifts.  I spent Wednesday mudding on the ground floor of the house.  Most of the mudding was done when my shift ended, but there was still some work to be done on the ceilings.  I like mudding, but not on the ceilings.  Normally, those ceilings would still be there the next day waiting for me, but not on this build.  When we arrived for our second shift, all the mudding on the ground floor was finished and the primer and most of the texture on the walls and ceilings had been done.  It was awesome.  On our second shift, we were supposed to hang 4 pieces of drywall in one of the bathrooms.  It should have been quick,  but it was an awkward room.  One wall had the 2 studs weren’t flush and the other wall had a pipe in a difficult spot.  We spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon working with the site supervisors trying to figure out the best way to get the drywall up, finally shimming the studs and adding extra nailing surfaces where we needed them.  It was 2:30 we got our first piece up. Spending four and a half hours of a six hour shift staring at those walls not hanging drywall was pretty frustrating, but at least we knew that when the 4PM shift showed up, the walls would be all ready for them and they would be able to finish up quickly.

One added bonus for this trip was that we got to see Pastor Ella and Bishop Henry. It was great to see them again.  They stopped by both days to bring us lunch because we were working close to the food pantry.  The food pantry is feeding more people now than when we were there.  More people are back, but apparently not all the jobs have come back.  I’m glad to know that the work we did  5 years ago is still helping people, even though in this case, I’d be even happier if it wasn’t needed.

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