Coming Full Circle

“About ten years ago, some people I now consider some of my best friends and family spent a few years in the Gulf Coast rebuilding houses. It’s really kinda special ten years later that we have the opportunity to come back and see how the community has grown.” – Donald Marsh

Ten years ago, they became close friends while working on the Gulf Coast as AmeriCorps NCCC members. They helped in communities that had been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, including New Orleans. Coming back for their reunion brought them back to where it all began.

“It finishes everything for me,” said Whitney Reis. “It brings everything back to where it all started. I get to hang out with my team and do everything we did while we were down here. It’s always so fulfilling to work on Habitat houses, and we love spending time together. We had the opportunity to do a work day today, and it kinda just wrapped every thing up. It brought it full circle, ten years ago to now.”

Their team was Raven Four, one of hundreds of teams that helped the Gulf Coast recover. Like many AmeriCorps members, working together for ten months of the year turned them into close friends. Despite the decade since they last worked together, it was like no time had passed.

“We’re getting back to our routine,” said Ashlee Girardi. “We’ve been apart for ten years, and we fell right back into it. I think it echoes what we were doing before.”

“My favorite part of being back here getting to work on houses with my old teammates, hammering away,” said Donald. “We’re getting dirty, but getting dirty for some good. It revitalized me in ways I can’t put words on. I haven’t felt this happy in years.

Their experiences as AmeriCorps giving back and helping renew communities hit by the storm left a mark on all of them and became an experience that they couldn’t replicate except by returning to the build site. To share this experience, two members of the team brought their current partners along.

“It’s really cool to be on site with my wife,” said Donald. “I met her a few years ago. She knew all about my time in AmeriCorps. She knew how important it was to me. To have her come out and share this experience with me. It’s like she’s able to see a side of me that she doesn’t necessarily see every day. I’m glad to be able to share that with her.”

“This is [my boyfriend’s] first time in New Orleans, so it’s not necessarily what he thought he was in for,” said Whitney. “It’s fun introducing him to my team and getting to work on the house together, and showing him what AmeriCorps was for us.”