By JASON CLARKE

Staff Writer

When USAO’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity got to New Orleans, the city was not what they had pictured.

“It was a dirty, dry destruction,” said chapter president Eryn Bass, “I thought it would be swampy.”

The group returned with photos of a devastated Ward 9 where former homes are just shells of houses.

“Fourty-five percent of the people have no plans to return...” said group-member Rebecca Wasson, “You felt that in the community we were in, they were just abandoned.”

But the group was not there to mourn New Orlean’s losses, but to help the city regain its former glory.

A local hospital had donated a warehouse to the charity for use with rebuilding efforts. Knee deep in debris, though, the building needed to be cleaned out.

Wasson said that despite a previous group working in the building for a week, it was still a wreck.

With no electricity and using what little sunlight made it into the building, the USAO group helped clean the warehouse and installed shelves for tools and supplies.

Thanks to the timing of their trip, the USAO group was also in New Orleans in time to help unload pieces of 35 prefabricated homes. Parts of the homes had been assembled in Rockefeller Center, and students got to see a myriad of signatures from celebrities ranging from Katie Couric to Rob Thomas.

Wasson said they felt a sense of accomplishment looking at a once empty field that is now filled with the pieces of 35 homes ready to be assembled.

Another chore taken on by the group included tieing rebar to help support the new foundations. A large machine would drive pylons into the ground down to bedrock. The pylon was then removed and the resulting holes were filled with the student constructed rebar and concrete.

Working along side students from New York, California, Wisconsin and Texas, as well as other Habitat workers, the students remained enthusiastic throughout the week.

But it only took a rumble in their stomachs to remind them of the long road of recovery the community still has to go.

The closest fast food was 45 minutes away.

Volunteers operated lunch trucks which fed the workers onsite daily.

“There is still so much that needs to be done,” Wasson said, “While some are ready to rebuild, most of the area still needs to be cleaned up.”

Wasson said while the New Orleans chapter for Habitat for Humanity has a lot of help already scheduled, nearby areas such as St. Bernard Parish are in desperate need of assistance

She added there are always other charity groups in the area that need help as well.

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