Helping Your Neighbors

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Helping Your Neighbors

By Elizabeth Hefner, Director of Development and Communications

Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded just how lucky I am.  As Hurricane Harvey moved across the Texas and Louisiana coasts creating devastating flooding, all I could do was pray and weep.  I wept for the families who lost everything, for communities and cities who have to rebuild, and for the leaders who will have to make difficult discussions along the way. 

As Harvey rolled in, I was overwhelmed by memories from Hurricane Katrina. Like Harvey, waters rose displacing tens of thousands and people fled. After the waters fell, the searches began.  People searched for family and friends, their possessions, and they searched their souls to find some glimmer of hope, peace, or joy. The searching continued, and then the great clean-out began.  Neighbors and strangers worked side by side to shovel mud, clear the roads, and start gutting houses. Through this process the joyful resilience of the city took root in the hearts and mind of all who lived there.


One year after the storm in 2006, I moved to New Orleans, a city in recover, as a freshman in college. Although I was there for an education, I knew that I was called to help rebuild. That is when I found Habitat for Humanity, and made some of my closest friends. A bond forms when you put on Tyvek suits and respirators together and spend 8 hours cleaning out houses. You bond to the city, its residents, and your fellow laborers. 

During my four years in New Orleans, I worked with Habitat every Saturday I could spare. They were cleaning out, and led the charge in ensuring that residents had safe, decent and affordable shelter.  I had the great experience of working in the Upper 9th Ward on the Musician’s Village Neighborhood. Habitat New Orleans provided homeownership opportunities to 82 families while I was a volunteer. As I left the city in 2010, I knew that Habitat would continue to build homes that were safe and affordable so even more families could continue getting their life back together.   

Fast forward to 2017, Hurricane Harvey has forever changed the lives of all who were in its path. People are searching for hope.  How will you respond?

The first thing you can do is visit Habitat International’s Website.  There you can make a donation to serve families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  Once it is safe, and the waters recede, sign up to be on a volunteer team. Houston, the communities around it, and South West Louisianans will have a great clean-out, and will have to rebuild.  Please, consider volunteering with Habitat.

Most of all, as the news stories from this devastating storm fade away only to be replaced with other stories, please do not forget.  Do not forget the devastation that you have seen.  Do not forget about the people who have to rebuild their lives.  Do not forget to continue to give back to these communities for the years to come as they rebuild.

(*picture provided by Habitat for Humanity International)