The family that had taken in the 19 members of five or six different families they were related to were pretty overwhelmed by all the offers of help in the community. The problem was coordinating them and making it all makes sense for the families involved. The house we were working on is on our church's property, it's the James House, which has housed a lot of people in the past. It was the originating shelter for our homeless women's shelter, until they got enough money to move into a bigger and newer building. It was the place where we put up folks that had had a fire in their house. It was where we put our associate pastor up when she had had problems finding housing on her income.
Now we cleaned it up, moved in beds and bedding, including an old futon we had, couches, tables, chairs, silverware, and clothing in huge bundles and boxes. We made sure all the appliances worked (the fridge was burning itself out, so we had to move in a temporary rental unit). I went out and spent a couple of hours on the garden and yard, cleaning up blown in trash, weeding, pruning, and settling things, and then did the meticulous work of getting the rose garden cleaned up as well. We went to the local thrift shop for pots, pans, and good bedding and I happened on a fifty cent vase that I took back and filled with roses and rose buds from the garden. The blossoms filled the house with their scent, and pushed back the mildly musty smell of a house long unused.
The youth group helped with the cleaning and made a big welcoming banner. The local man said it would make the girls cry. There was a big bundle of toys upstairs, too. I have half a mind to give the girls journals/scrapbooks as well to help work through what chaos must be in their heads.
They get to stay in the house indefinitely. They're from one of the neighborhoods that was completely wiped out, they have nothing to go back to. The other families are a bit more lucky, most have something left to at least rebuild on. One of the families the dad is part of the national transport organization, so he's going to go back and help rebuild the airport within a month, when they have enough basic infrastructure to support workers. It's work, and he's eager to get back.
Everything that's getting donated to the families that they can't use is going into storage, so that they can bring it back with them when they go back. There's a lot of things they'll need, very basic furniture, the goods we've brought them for the house. I don't expect to see anything we gave them back, honestly. It'll be going to people that can use them.
The quiet, meticulous work of going through the rose garden, dead-heading, weeding, trimming and watering was good for me. I desperately needed the quiet time. I did some of the heavy lifting for the furniture in the house, and the man came by to see the house and gave us hugs for helping in a way that was actually useful (unlike one group that basically dumped a bunch of junk on his front yard, thinking they were being charitable when it was stuff no one could have used). His family need some coordinating help, too, with all the help coming in. A lot of it is like space for a month, but then what do the kids do then? Switch schools again? Move to another place? What?
He actually hasn't been able to open his restaurant since his family appeared, so there is no money coming in, yet (other than the thousand our church has given his family, money from other groups, along with the community money that's been coming in through our financial advisor's office), but he's supposed to open on Tuesday. We offered kitchen help, but he said it would be easier to just do it himself, and I don't blame him. I'd love to know how they make their pies. :-)
He looked tired, but happy to see that some of the members were going to have their own place for a while. Central to the schools, walking distance to a grocery store, and easy distance to town.
By 2 I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and we piled into the van and went home and had lunch, finally. We did some shopping, errands and stuff, and Jet wanted to go get a toy with his ten stamps, and ended up with a cool battery powered refrigerator cog system that he played with all afternoon and evening. We had taco salad for dinner, and watched Chitty-chitty Bang-bang. Good, low-level stuff for us.
This morning was church. I was still tired, so when we got home, I slept. Now the boys are sleeping on the couch, downstairs, Jet in John's arms, both of then snoring contentedly. It's good to rest after work.
I'm entirely tempted, in a few months or even half a year, to take a few month's leave, and go down to the Gulf when things have recovered enough to just go and work and help rebuild as much as I can. I hear that Biloxi and Gulfport, for all that they were wiped out even more than New Orleans, have actually pulled together far better as a community in making sure people survive all this. That even the inmates at the local jails have helped with handing out ice and water, and are working with folks to make it as much better as possible. Without power or water, people can't stay at home and they're getting out and helping each other as much as possible.
John's tempted as well, and Jet would probably learn a lot. We'll have to see if we could do that... it's so much more satisfying.