Coast Guard Summer Volunteer Challenge

Lynne, Paul and Claude were stuck in the middle of New Orleans July, but at that point, they were used to the heat. These three Coast Guardsmen have been stationed in the West Bank area for almost a year— but apart from their Coast Guard duties, they’ve spent much of that time volunteering with New Orleans Habitat. This summer, the group joined NOAHH’s Summer Volunteer Challenge, committing to volunteer at least five times between June 8 and August 5.

According to Lynne, they’re planning on doing much more. “[Volunteering with Habitat] started off as the Coast Guard’s outreach for community, and various groups in the Coast Guard…started asking for volunteers to come down as a large group,” she said. “But now it’s become its own monster. We’re here together, but we probably would’ve come down individually as well.”

Although all three agreed that they would come and build without an organized group, the trio’s enthusiasm for volunteering with NOAHH stems from different places. For Paul, it’s about the exposure to new people and new abilities. “It’s a different experience, working with people outside of the Coast Guard,” he said. “I’m also learning skills I never thought I would.”

While Paul is excited about his newfound construction experience, Claude says that the prospect of local engagement is what drew her to New Orleans Habitat— “I’ve been wanting to be part of the community, so this is one aspect of trying to get involved.” Her penchant for community service has led her to work with other organizations around the New Orleans area, but NOAHH is different. “I’ve done other stuff, but this is cool because you get to meet other people in the community who are thinking the same way you are.”

For Lynne, her engagement has a personal link. “I recently became a homeowner myself,” she said, “so it’s really exciting to help others fulfill that dream of being a homeowner, too. I like to give back that way.”

On this particular Friday, the group was busy painting a house on Urquhart street, each atop a ladder with a bucket and brush in hand. Paul let his brush sit in the bright blue paint for a moment to look up at the progress he’d made on the side of the house. “I volunteered at this same site three weeks ago,” he remarked, pointing to the roof. “Seeing the different stages and progress made on it is really cool.”

Paul, Lynne and Claude plan on seeing the Urquhart house— and many other NOAHH sites— through to the end, as they’re stationed in New Orleans for another three years. “I plan on continuing [volunteering with Habitat] while I’m living in the New Orleans area,” Paul said.

When they first began working with NOAHH, the group was a little apprehensive, wondering if their limited experience would hinder them on the construction site.

“I didn’t have any house building skills,” Lynne said, “So, at first, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be useful.” But that worry quickly melted away once they began construction on their first site in New Orleans East. “They throw you in, and you’re doing work, and suddenly you look back and say, ‘Hey, I built that house!’”

Paul and Claude laughed and nodded as Lynne gestured to the Urquhart house, adding that they felt the same kind of amazement looking at their work. All three volunteers are excited to see what they can do with NOAHH over their next three years in New Orleans.