A group of students and faculty from Northwestern College in Orange City is coming home today (Friday) after spending part of their Christmas break in New Orleans helping with recovery efforts. In a phone interview with Radio Iowa, Dave Nonnemacher , the director of service learning, talked about the changes from last year.
Nonnemacher says as he stands out on the street, there are signs of improvement with a lot more people around than there were last year at this time. He says the quiet was the thing they noticed last year, but there’s more going on now, including the noise of a lawn mower. Nonnemacher says it’s hard to judge the day-to-day progress.
Nonnemacher says there’s a lot of work to be done yet, as he says there’s a lot of different stages, with some houses that have had work done, and other houses that haven’t had anything done. He says there’s still evidence of the immediate aftermath of the storm. Nonnemacher says there are still a lot of signs that disasters services put on them that say “owner not returning.” He’s not sure what that means.
Nonnemacher says there are some modular homes that have been brought in, but there are still several houses where it’s obvious nothing has been done. The Northwestern College group is working with the Trinity Christian Community in the Holly Grove neighborhood of the 14th Ward. He says last year they had no electric, water or heat, and now there are new windows and the ground floor has been renovated. But he says, “people need to know there’s a lot of work to be done here yet.”
Nonnemacher says the people they’ve talked to seem to be positive about making progress. Nonnemacher says there wasn’t a lot said last year because people were unsure about what was going to happen. Nonnemacher says there seems to be “a gritty determination” among the people the group is working with as they’re working on seven or eight homes where the people are coming back. He says there are other signs that the people are trying to get back.
Nonnemacher says he saw a bumper sticker that says “Proud to crawl back to New Orleans,” and says that’s a good sign of where people are at. A second team from Northwestern went to Lake Charles, Louisiana.