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He said the work has shifted from projects college students could easily do - such as gutting flooded homes - to more specialized construction.
Lagniappe will stop doing construction and shift its focus to community rebuilding - the church aims to start an after-school program at Bay High School.
While the work - and donations - have dried up, the volunteers haven’t stopped coming.
“A lot of organizations are having to scrounge to keep everybody busy,” said Mr. Sikkema, 26. “There is a renewed sense of volunteerism, this fresh excitement as people realize President Obama will keep funding programs like AmeriCorps.”
Mr. Donovan said Mr. Obama has reinforced volunteerism, saying the administration must “capture the spirit” of people “helping to change America.”
Some volunteers are shocked when they see progress in the rest of the city but realize how little has changed in parts of New Orleans.
While it’s less than a 10-minute drive from Bourbon Street, where the bars remain open and pop hits blare at all hours of the day, most of the Lower 9th Ward remains in tatters.
There’s been an evolution in the sights, sounds and smells, but hundreds of flooded homes still sit, their walls collapsed. Broken front doors invite a view of rotted furniture inside. The silence that permeated the Lower 9th for more than a year as pieces of homes and smashed cars lay in the streets has been replaced by the sounds of hammers and buzz saws, but there remains an eerie emptiness some residents said they weren’t sure would ever go away.
“If you can understand we had 10,000 houses, 10,000 families, and now we have something like 20,” Mr. Green said. “That’s still crowded to us, because at one time there was nobody here.”
The spray paint - marking TFW for toxic floodwater, or in some cases, grim warnings such as “2 dogs under house” or “possible dead body” - has faded off many homes.
Placards across the city advertise plumbing, painting, tree cutting, and even “we cut tall grass,” a service badly needed in the overgrowth of the Lower 9th, where wild dogs roam and snakes have been spotted.
The lingering emotional effects are still being categorized, as schoolchildren have trouble with tests and seniors remain haunted from losing their homes and, later, falling victim to the looting of family heirlooms and even valuable copper pipe that could have been salvaged.
“The water did rise and it just messed your mind up. I looked around at my home and didn’t want to believe it was my own place,” Hazel Minter, 87, said from the front porch that her son Claude Minter has rebuilt.
He recounted going to school in the Upper 9th as a boy and said it was always going to be home.
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By Andrew P. Napolitano
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