New Orleans Project

Once again, the Northern Michigan University Constructors (NMC) are up to some good.Houses in New Orleans

In the fall of 2007, the student organization raised 10,000 dollars to fund a trip to New Orleans in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity. During the week before Christmas, 19 volunteer construction management students made the 21-hour road trip to the city-on-stilts.

NMC members Jeremy Bubb and James Conlin didn’t know what to expect, but as they drove into New Orleans on the “20-mile bridge through a swamp” and over the Mississippi River, they realized that the extent of the devastation was more than they’d expected.

“It seemed untouched,” Bubb said. Although water levels had receded, many houses were seemingly beyond repair. “You could see the line on houses where the water level had been marked by the National Guard, and a lot of houses still had FEMA tarps for roofs.”

Conlin, who spent hours planning and preparing a budget for the trip to New Orleans, added, “We repaired three roofs, sided two houses, finished trim work on two porches and Men working on roofdid other miscellaneous jobs,” yet it didn’t feel as though the work made a dent in a city with so much left to rebuild.

When asked how this type of a project compared to something smaller, closer to home, such as their recent volunteer work with ‘Heroes at Home’ in Escanaba, Mich. Bubb said that this was much different, less intimate. 

However, while this project took them to a city where the destruction felt overwhelming, houses were being rebuilt and founded on stilts, and the students were asked “to not leave their security-locked hotel,” they were able to meet one homeowner briefly, as well as Norm Abrams from the nationally-aired television show This Old House.

The show had been working with Habitat for Humanity and was focusing efforts on Musicians Villagerebuilding homes in the Lower Ninth Ward—Musicians' Village, where the constructors were also working. As a result, the NMC volunteers were scheduled to appear in a segment on the sixth episode of This Old House.

NMC volunteered a total of 640 collective hours during their week in New Orleans, and as always, they were glad to make a difference, even if the results seemed less noticeable among such wreckage.

“It was nice to go someplace warm over winter break, to do something curriculum-related, and to have an opportunity to help people,” Bubb said.

Conlin agreed that the trip was about making a difference; it was something he’d wanted to do after volunteering for a similar trip early in his undergraduate studies. He not only wanted to give back to communities, but he wanted to set an example for freshmen in the organization, as well. Naturally, this is a part of how the NMC’s good work ethic and consistent volunteer efforts are perpetuated.

“We were the only student group (that we knew of) working in Musicians' Village,” reported Bubb and Conlin, and as always, the supervisors from Habitat for Humanity were impressed with the students’ knowledge, dedication and work ethic on another job well done.

*The NMU Constructors would like to thank all those who donated funds for the New Orleans project.

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Read more about This Old House