Building to restore humanity, one family home at a time


There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in Alexandria, but Rod Kuckro, deeply affected by the plight of the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, wanted to do something to help.

Two weeks ago, he took some vacation time from work and went to New Orleans to work for Habitat for Humanity, building a house in that citys devastated Ninth Ward.

I was there in April of 2006, about six months after Katrina, and went on a tour. The bus company was not allowed to take us into East New Orleans or into the Ninth Ward because there was still so much devastation and because of the crime. The driver took me in his own car, and I can still not find words to describe what I saw, Kuckro said.

He saw cars atop houses and streets filled with debris from abandoned and destroyed homes.

There were Xs on the doors of the homes that were filled in with the dates when rescue crews visited and the number of bodies that were found. You hoped to see zeros in those boxes but frequently saw other numbers, he said.

For more than a year after that trip, Kuckro thought about what he might do to help. I saw that Habitat for Humanity was building over 300 homes and decided to volunteer, he said.

One of several volunteers
Volunteering was easy. He made his reservations about six weeks in advance, filled out an online application that described his level of skill and showed up.

They are amazingly well organized, he said. They told me where to go and when to be there and I simply had to follow instructions.

He was one of 70 to 80 volunteers on a Wednesday at 7:30 a.m.

There was a group of people from Delta Airlines, but there were also just individuals, he said. There was an architect from New York who was between jobs and a drummer from Des Moines, Iowa, who was working in hopes of getting his own house. There was also a man from New Orleans who already has his own home from Habitat.

That man was 67 years old with six children and 37 grandchildren. He had earned his home by working for 250 hours for the common good and then 100 hours on the home that became his.

He didnt have to be there, but he felt that it was his responsibility to continue to help build homes so that people could return to the neighborhood, Kuckro said.
People volunteer for one day, two days or a week. The volunteers pay their own way there and for their food and lodging while they volunteer, but its worth it, Kuckro said. Everyone is so appreciative that people from other parts of the country are thinking about New Orleans. Even the taxi driver thanked me when I told him why I was there.

Kuckro said he hopes to put a group of volunteers together to return to New Orleans in the spring.