To New Orleans, With Hammers


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OLL's Youth Group

Almost five years ago, Hurricane Katrina descended upon New Orleans, killing 700 people and doing $81 billion in damage as it flattened homes across the region. Even now, so many seasons later, some homes have not been rebuilt. But a few more of them have been repaired, thanks to the Youth Group at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Verona.

In late July, 32 members of the group traveled to New Orleans to volunteer their time and strength. The Youth Group’s director, Barbara Camp, says they had spent several months preparing for the trip, learning about the culture of the city and the physical and emotional toll taken by the hurricane, as well as working on their building skills.

OLL had raised $12,000 to support the trip, and Pat Hynes, Verona’s former building inspector, accompanied the group, as did Father Bryan Page. Among the students who went along were Ella Barnes, Chrissy Bell, Christina Brozyna, Andy Burger, Colleen Carr, Paul Corrente, Montana Delcolle, Joe Fitzmaurice, Michelle Frungillo, Joe Grabowski, Nick Looney, Carly Maestas, Matt Malanga, Julieanne Mascera, Torrey Mathisen, Kevin McCloskey, Sarah Michalowski, Adam Miller, Ellen Narucki, Ali Perna, Kieran Powell, Alex Sniatkowski, Kevin Swatt, Briana Tansey, Ryan Thomas and Paige Zebrowski.

Late summer is still hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico, and fittingly enough, a weak storm named Bonnie went through New Orleans as the group arrived. The students were housed in an abandoned orphanage and, when they were not working, got to see the devastated 9th Ward and meet people whose lives had been changed by the storm. Here’s part of what Camp told OLL about how the trip affected the Youth Group:

We painted, we scraped, we demolished, we rebuilt. But most importantly, we got to hear their stories. Stories of being on the roofs of houses waiting to be rescued, stories of living in other parts of the country until they could finally come “home” and stories of how pleased they were that their houses were finally being rebuilt. As we were working, people on the street would stop and say “God Bless You.” We were really humbled because it seemed like we were doing so little and yet it was so appreciated.

Here are some of the photos they took of their mission.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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