The Hicks Family Celebrates Their New Home
Under threat of rain, some 70 volunteers gathered at the home in Central City to celebrate the dedication of Julie Hicks‘ new home. Coming from across the U.S. and from right here in New Orleans, the volunteers came in from other worksites around the city to cap of a long day of hard work with a ceremony marking the completion of the Hicks family’s house. The volunteers from Jesuit High School, Urban Youth for Africa, and the Catholic Heart Workcamp joined NOAHH in the ceremony, giving Julie the symbolic gifts of bread, wine, flowers, the Bible, tools, and a key to her new home.
It’s not unheard of for a homeowner to be a little overwhelmed during their dedication; many have shed a few tears. But Julie Hicks delighted all when instead she burst into a dance of joy upon her porch. Her joy spread through the crowd, whose applause was heard even down the street. Standing on the porch with Julie were her children and grandchildren, friends and family, and her pastor lead the blessing of the home, making the celebration truly a coming together of her personal community with her new neighborhood.
Like all NOAHH homes, this one was built above the floodline to protect the homeowner. Because the area’s floodline was so high, the house was elevated a bit more than most NOAHH homes, and as such, special construction was required on the porch–the stairs had to be built to run parallel to the porch so that they would not block the sidewalk. Special care is taken to make every home fit right in its lot, its neighborhood, and for its future homeowner. NOAHH has 14 house plans, and homeowners help select the colors and some interior features. The personalized touches, along with those last 100 hours of sweat equity working on their own homes, is part of making the home truly theirs.
None of this would be possible without our volunteer support. The first volunteers to show up at the home were the students from Jesuit High School, who performed a few last minute touch ups and made sure the exterior was cleaned up for the family. The students have been volunteering on site in Hollygrove all month. As part of their graduation requirements, Jesuit students must complete 100 hours of community service between their junior and senior years. According to Kevin Murphy, Director of Community Service Programs at Jesuit, the students have many options to choose from.
“…[W]orking with the disabled, tutoring low-income students, working with the elderly, traveling to [another] community and doing manual labor,” were all options, Murphy said. “These nine guys decided to stay in New Orleans and work with Habitat. I think Habitat appealed to this group because it gives them the opportunity to work outside, work with their hands. It also offers an opportunity to both learn about and work to improve New Orleans’ blight and poverty problem.”
Before the dedication, they had working hard in the summer heat. According to Murphy, that heat isn’t much of an issue. The satisfaction of seeing a home being built has also kept spirits up.
“It certainly has been hot, but, honestly, we’re a bunch of New Orleanians–it’s nothing we haven’t experienced before. We’ve been good about taking breaks, but we’ve also caught a few–in the form of cloud cover and breezes,” he said. “The guys have spent most of their time working on getting [the Hollygrove home] literally up off the ground. They constructed the floor system, frame and walls. They’ve really enjoyed seeing the house go up, and seeing all the progress they’ve made over the last three weeks.””