NMU Constructors Volunteer in New Orleans
The Northern Michigan Constructors organization traveled to New Orleans for one week over winter break to assist Habitat for Humanity. They were assigned to Musician’s Village in the Lower Ninth Ward and ended up working in the same place as Norm Abram and the crew of the television series This Old House. They are pictured with Abram (front center) and host Kevin O'Connor (top center).
“It was pure luck,” said NMC member James Conlin. “They were doing a segment in New Orleans and we happened to be there one of the days they were there filming, working on the house they were working on. We don't know for sure when that program will air, but they said it will be the sixth episode of the season. ”
The trip to New Orleans was something Conlin and fellow NMC member Jeremy Bubb thought long and hard about doing. In winter 2005, when Conlin was a freshman, the group worked in Montgomery, Ala. Part of the point of that trip was to show the freshmen and sophomore members what they could do as part of the organization. Conlin and Bubb decided to do the same thing this year. They searched online to find where Habitat for Humanity was doing work and discovered that New Orleans was still in need of a lot of help. When they made enough money through fundraising to take the trip, they decided that winter break would be a good time to go since most people didn’t have any plans.
"We took the trip as a learning experience for the freshmen and sophomores so they could continue what the club does after we graduate," Conlin said. "It was fun to do the things we love to do and know that we’re helping families while having fun.”
While in Musician’s Village, they put on three roofs, sided two houses and did miscellaneous work, such as porch trim. They did some inteior work, but focused mostly on exterior projects.
Bubb said there is still much more work to be done in New Orleans: “It was a shock to see the devastation. It’s nothing compared to what they show on TV. It hits you so much harder in person.”
“In Musician’s Village there are areas with new, fixed-up houses that look really good, but then across the street old houses are abandoned and boarded up,” Conlin added.
The trip to New Orleans wasn’t just all work and no play, though. The group went to a WWII museum and took an airboat tour. Conlin even got to hold a one-year-old alligator.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” said Conlin. “Not just about the work that needs to be done, but it’s a lot different there. It was culture shock."
The NMC does work around the Upper Peninsula with Habitat for Humanity and recently worked with Heroes at Home in Escanaba.
Bubb said one of the most fulfilling days in New Orleans was when the constructors met up with the crew from This Old House.
"On that day, we met one of the homeowners and we got to see his appreciation,” Bubb said. “That was probably the best moment. You know you’re performing a good deed, but seeing the look on the homeowner’s face is a great feeling.”