So, what is hope? What does hope mean to you and your family? Close your eyes and think about that in your life, your family. Right now, what does hope mean to you. Now think about the people and families of New Orleans who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina….. Yes, that was almost 8 years ago, and things are getting better in some parts of New Orleans, but other parts of the City they are still in need of, in a word… “hope”.
On March 18, 2013 I joined 50 of my fellow Partner Power International Team members and probably 300 other volunteers from the Microsoft Convergence Convention to travel to the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. I approached this day with some skepticism of whether we would be welcomed, and quite frankly, could we make a difference.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This video shows a nice summary of the day.
My particular project was building a 1,000’ fence for young children to play ball in at the Hope Community Center in Gentilly. Pay attention to the 1:54 mark to 2:00 mark and see the transformation of that field. In addition, our Microsoft volunteers accomplished the following in one day:
- Tree Planting
- Volunteers planted 160 trees spanning a twenty block radius
- Neighborhood homes
- Painted one neighborhood home and landscaped 6 residential homes
- Hope Community Center
- Built 2 Decks outside the Community Center
- Painted outside wall of gym
- Sided one of the outdoor buildings
- Senior Lounge in Gym – finished dry wall, painted and installed drop ceiling inside and out
- Stained and sealed stairway to existing computer lab
- Painted and installed new flooring in boys and girls gym bathrooms
- Repainted Concession Stand in Gym
- Food Pantry – painted pantry, plus built and installed new shelves for the pantry which currently serves approximately 100 people per month – and the work done will enable an increase in service – PLUS – the local food bank had quit servicing this pantry because it didn’t meet code – now services will be reinstated
- Painted all trim and interior doors in the community center gym Painted 3 art murals and one hand print (featuring all of the Convergence Volunteers) throughout the Gym
- Sponsored two frame packages and completed one house for New Orleans Habitat for Humanity
At the conclusion of the day, I was emotionally impacted by the course of the success from all our volunteers. I should have known better and realized that yes, we could, and did make a difference for these people. I have been touched in a way that I cannot describe, but I know from now on if I have an opportunity to help like this I will always now, “Lead from the front.”
As New Orleans has a special place in my heart, I will try and visit the Hope Community Center in the future. I know they welcome me as one of their own. As the song says, “I will be there to catch you this time so you won’t fall.”