NEW ORLEANS (March 17, 2012) — A group of about 70 retirement plan advisors, together with plan administrators, product and service providers, and senior managers gathered in the Hilton hotel lobby for the 1st Annual ASPPA SUMMIT Volunteer day.
Months in advance, these generous attendees to The ASPPA 401(k) SUMMIT had signed on to volunteer their time and energy to assist on three projects to renovate homes of victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Before heading to the project sites, each volunteer put on their ASPPA SUMMIT Volunteer/Rebuilding Together New Orleans t-shirt and hat, broke up into their respective teams and boarded the buses.
In transport to the work site, volunteers passed by dilapidated homes with water lines on the top sides, where the flood waters had risen to. But like rays of hope peeking through, in between the destroyed homes were modest but beautiful French influenced dwellings that had already been rebuilt through Rebuilding Together New Orleans program.
As each team of volunteers arrived at the three work sites, faces were excited but somber as they listened intently to John Skvarka, the Director of Rebuilding Together New Orleans, describe what these hurricane Katrina survivors had endured in recent years. Many survivors, including the homeowners of the project sites volunteers would be working on, previously had their destroyed homes renovated, only to find out that the donated drywall that was installed was contaminated and had to be removed. If left in the homes, the installed drywall would corrode electrical wiring and other metals near it, slowly breaking down home functions.
After an orientation of what needed to be accomplished, volunteers flooded the interior and exterior of the homes grabbing tools and supplies, anxious to get to their assignments. Happily hammering away at a range of projects including retiling bathrooms, landscaping, insulating walls, installing new windows and cabinets and painting, volunteers diligently worked at their assignments only stopping briefly to grab a cup of water.
At two of the project sites, the homeowners arrived not only to see what progress had been made, but mainly to express their gratitude to all of the volunteers.
Home owner John Gross grew up in New Orleans and had lived in his home for 30 years before the flood waters caused by Hurricane Katrina destroyed it. He expressed that he was truly “grateful for the help“ and hoped that he could be back in his newly renovated home “before his birthday.” As if they were long-time friends, he and volunteers exchanged hugs and smiles and took pictures together as they talked about their lives, families and hopes for the day.
Homeowner Leroy Ashford, a proud father of five and an Air Force 1st class veteran, had been residing in New Orleans for more than 15 years when his home was made inhabitable by Hurricane Katrina.
After his house was initially renovated, he moved back in only to find out that he would have to once again leave his home due to the contaminated drywall. He watched on as ASPPA SUMMIT volunteers carried large cabinets inside his home, operated wood cutting machines and painted. Eager to help those already landscaping, he grabbed his lawnmower and joined in.
After a hard and fulfilling day of work, the volunteers gathered at the Ugly Dog Salon, an authentic New Orleans pub, for a cold beverage and to reflect on the day. Even though they had worked for several hours in over 80 degree weather, the premise of what they had been able to accomplish in behalf of others in need kept a broad smile across their faces. Touched by the people they had worked alongside and the homeowners who had lost so much but still remained hopeful for the future, many of the volunteers expressed the desire to participate in next year’s ASPPA SUMMIT Volunteer Day.
Emilie O. Forde
Category: Member Focus