Rollins Relief Returns to New Orleans

January 31, 2011

The House that Rollins Relief Built
Photo by Kelly Mix

As part of Rollins Relief, 17 students, faculty and staff spent a week of service-immersion work with the Greater New Orleans chapter of Habitat for Humanity, as part of its Katrina Recovery Project.  This year, the group spent the entire week working with a homeowner on her new residence in the heavily flooded Upper Ninth Ward. This work included painting the house inside and out, installing cabinets, doors, baseboards, and hardware, as well as building and installing stairs, decking and hand rails.

Sam Barns   Kelly Mix and Katie Powell (Class of 2011) with Habitat for Humanity leader, Jesse (center)

Sam Barns (Class of 2010 '12MBA) sands down the wood on the front porch. Every member had a part in every part of the house. One group took turns measuring various things that needed to be cut, others hunted down the tools needed to complete the tasks at hand while others handled the various power tools needed to saw and drill things into place.


Kelly Mix (Class of 2012HH) and Katie Powell (Class of 2011) take a quick snapshot with the Habitat for Humanity leader, Jesse.  Mix and Powell built a box that would be placed over the air conditioning system.  Since they decided to set up their working station directly next to the saw machine, they were constantly showered with sawdust.

Students work on the banister   Sofia Macias and Katie Powell (Class of 2011)

After Omar Rachid (Class of 2011) and Louisa Gibbs (Class of 2011) had secured the banister support, other team members were able to help to move the project along faster.  Nicole Smallwood (Class of 2013) and Isaac Carpenter (Class of 2012) secured the spindles to prevent falls. Rockeven Desir (Class of 2014) and Danielle Lincoln (Class of 2011) worked on attaching the stairs to the porch.


Sofia Macias (Class of 2013HH) and Katie Powell (Class of 2011) manned the saw throughout the entire week, as wood was in high demand to finish the various projects around the house.  The saw was the first power tool to be set up in the early morning and the last tool to be stored away in the late afternoon.

Professor of Chemistry Larry Eng-Wilmot leads students on a walking tour of the Lower 9th Ward   The repaired levees

Professor of Chemistry Larry Eng-Wilmot leads students on a walking tour of the Lower Ninth Ward. This marked Eng-Wilmont’s eighth trip to New Orleans with Rollins Relief. He was a very knowledgeable tour guide for the group, some of whom had never been to the area before.


On the day of arrival, the group was given a tour of the reconstructed levees. Right outside of this area is Brad Pitt’s community of odd-looking homes, which he calls “Homes of the Future.”

A house in the Lower Ninth Ward   Kelly Mix at the Lower Ninth Ward

This is an example of the houses mixed in with the newly constructed houses. After the hurricane, houses were marked with spray-painted X’s to show that they had been inspected. The different quadrants showed how many times the house had been inspected, by whom and on what dates. In some cases, a quadrant indicated the number of people whose lives were tragically lost due to the flood.


On a tour of the Lower Ninth Ward, the group was able to see the devastation that still remains. New houses are mixed in with uninhabitable houses set up for demolition.  “This trip truly gave me an eye-opening perspective of the real events that occurred during and after hurricane Katrina,” said Mix. “As a group, we discussed early on in the trip how this was more than a storm, and beyond a doubt that is true.  What we saw in New Orleans was devastation at its finest, five-and-a-half years after the storm hit.”

This was the 10th relief trip that Rollins Relief, a student-founded, student-led campus-wide organization, has traveled to southeast Louisiana to participate in the region's recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Facilitated by the Office of Community Engagement, Rollins Relief has sent nearly 270 Rollins students, faculty and staff to participate in these week-long service trips. Since March 2006, this represents the contribution of almost 11,000 service hours to the recovery-rebuilding effort. This year’s trip was organized and led by students Barns and Danielle Lincoln (Class of 2011), who serve as the 2010-2011 president and vice president, respectively, of Rollins Relief.

View more photos from the trip.

By Sofia Macias (Class of 2013HH) and Kelly Mix (Class of 2012HH)

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