This month we will mark the tenth year since Camp Restore started working on Restoring Faith, Home, and Community in the name of Jesus. In many ways we at RAI Ministries and Camp Restore have transitioned from a disaster relief organization to an organization that restores community in more ways than with bricks and mortar.
In the following below I have asked various staff members to present a picture of their work with RAI over the past year. The lion’s share of our work is through the ministry of Camp Restore. Walt talks about the restoration work that has been done and needs to be done in the coming year. Kathy works on what she calls the ‘softer side’ of re-covery. Kurt is the point person working with a grant from the Kellogg Foundation entitled Young Men’s Voices Have Power. We also continue our operations of two senior centers; one in the Lower Ninth Ward and the other here in New Orleans East.
For fiscal year 2015-16 Camp Restore hosted 3,069 volunteers and coordinated another 1,000, partnering with us and with our community in the work of restoring, rebuilding, and reconciliation in the Greater New Orleans area. With the Great Flood of 2016 we have work to do in the Baton Rouge area, and we are also partnering with the Michigan District of the LCMS as they consider opening Camp Restore – Detroit.
-Rev. David Goodine, Executive Director
The Great Flood
Over the weekend of August 12-14 the area around and especially east of Baton Rouge experienced rainfall of two to two-and-a half-feet. There was unprecedented flooding in the region. Estimates of the number of homes affected range from 60,000-110,000.
The vast majority of this area was not prone to flooding and according to government reports, most of the homes were not covered by flood insurance. Right now we are working with partners to muck out and gut these homes. Some schools are closed because of damage and will not open for months.
In partnership with Trinity Lutheran Church in Baton Rouge, we have opened Camp Restore – Baton Rouge. We encourage you to consider volunteering, and/or giving a gift to help in the efforts of recovery. You may mail a check, or donate online.
NOLA East and Lower Nine Senior Centers
RAI Ministries opened two senior citizens centers in May of 2014 in areas that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The centers are in New Orleans East and in the Lower Ninth Ward. These areas are still struggling to return to the economic and social base that existed before the storm. We provide centralized services for our seniors, including a nutritious meal daily, field trips, daily exercise classes, arts and crafts, bingo, monthly birthday parties, at least one outside presenter weekly, and fellowship and support with other seniors. Our partners include neighborhood schools such as Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, and nonprofits like the Renaissance Project.
The senior centers also give the participants an extended family since most of the seniors now live alone. Many families that were once together have been broken up by the storm as some members relocated to other areas of the country. Statistics show that more socialization increases one’s mental and physical well-being. When seniors are active socially and mentally they live longer and can remain in their own homes rather than relying on skilled care or a nursing home situation. These benefits are tremendous – in reduced health care to the seniors, the cost savings for medical insurance, and the savings provided to both the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The age range of those attending the centers are from 60-90 years old. We have 33 participants enrolled in New Orleans East with an average attendance of 18. In the Lower Ninth Ward, we have 108 enrolled and an average attendance of 61. We are contracted with the city of New Orleans for 25 participants per center and are working to raise funds to cover our growth which has greatly exceeded that figure.
Home Restoration Report
Walter Schmudlach, Construction Supervisor
I want to thank all of the volunteers who give so freely of themselves to help make so many homeowners enjoy better living conditions for themselves and their families.
As I review the year, many skills were learned and many projects were completed. Here is a short listing of the project types: Removed and replaced floor beams from 2x4s to 2x12s that had been destroyed by termites; installed flooring; framed and built closets; insulated ceilings and walls; installed drywall, taped, mudded and floated; textured, primed and painted walls; poured concrete; removed wallpaper and skim coated; installed Hardie-board for tile installation; installed Hardie-plank siding; repaired balcony railing; installed main pillars; repaired fences; installed ceramic tile, grout, and seal; assisted in roughing in electrical and AC; sanded and sealed hardwood flooring; built stairs; repaired windows; repaired leaking roofs; helped install plumbing; built porch steps; welded loose railings; welded in updated lock mechanisms; installed doors and windows; installed base moulding and shoe moulding; replaced screens; installed toilets; moved mountains of dirt; built a walk-in shower for a particular situation; installed folding attic stairs; repaired door frames; repaired or replaced work on homes with citations from code enforcement; installed kitchen cabinets, countertops and sinks; installed laminate flooring; installed gutters, and repaired fascia and soffits.
We have completed more than 75 work projects this past year with a total of 14,507 hours put in by volunteers. When we look at the value of the volunteer labor, taking minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, at 14,507 hours, the dollar value contributed by Camp Restore-coordinated volunteers in 2015-16 alone to the health of New Orleans homeowners is at minimum $105,176. The construction piece of Camp Restore is highly recognized for all the great work that our volunteers perform.
This past year Camp Restore hosted interns from the Soziale Dienste International e.V. (Social Services International), headquartered in Germany. A great deal was learned by the interns and staff with ‘on the job’ training for all. Many skills were developed along with the relationships that were forged that were great assets to our camp.
At breakfast I was asked by one of our long-term volunteers, “What is your plan for the coming year?” Here are some ideas for 2016-17:
- There remain a large number of people of limited means who need help repairing their homes.
- Our volunteer force has changed over the years from skilled volunteers to those who are ready to learn. We need to be as ready to teach those skills are they are to learn them.
- Many of those who come have not had the chance to learn these skills, and this training gives them the confidence to work on their projects or homes in the future. We have done an excellent job in educating our volunteers to do those tasks.
This coming year we will be upgrading the teaching of our new interns, approaching the differences between the English and Metric systems, safe use of power tools, and to develop leadership skills to train others. Growing competency among our interns will mean that we can complete more projects and more families will be living in better conditions.
Interns Aus Deutschland
The Soziale Dienste International e.V. (Social Services International) partnered with Camp Restore this past year to bring interns from Germany to spend a year with us. We were greatly blessed to have Rico and JD with us this past year. (Our third trailblazing German intern, Burak, made a tough decision and returned home shortly after arrival.) They worked at Camp, led work groups, distributed and gathered tools, did maintenance and even did some shopping for food. Our new interns for the 2016-17 season, Peter and Bastian, hit the ground running and spent their first two weeks gutting and mucking out houses from the Great Flood of 2016.
Restoring the Fabric of Our Community
Kathy Wendling, Director of Community Service and Development
The Community Projects outreach of RAI Ministries – Camp Restore touches the lives of thousands of people in our community, by working with over 100 local ministries, non-profits and civic organizations. A volunteer workday is usually a six-hour day Monday thru Friday, with occasional weekends. Our volunteers include those staying at Camp Restore, those in offsite housing, and locals. In the last fiscal year our volunteers worked 43,584 hours of service in our community (this doesn’t include the hours of volunteer groups who worked all week with SBP, Habitat for Humanity, or LowerNine.org). They worked in churches, schools, summer camps, playgrounds food pantries, nursing homes, senior centers, animal shelters, community gardens, environmental projects and programs for victims of abuse, hunger and poverty.
Ann Christian, PR/Volunteer Coordinator for ARC of Greater New Orleans, writes:
“ARC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization serving people with intellectual disabilities and delays from birth through adulthood. Through various programs and social enterprise, we are committed to securing for all people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop, function and live to their fullest potential.
We depend heavily on volunteer support and we are always amazed at how many volunteers come to us through Camp Restore. Those that come are truly interested in our mission and extremely attentive to the jobs they are tasked with. More importantly, they love to have fun and that’s just what we seek in our volunteers. …we can’t thank Camp Restore enough for helping ARC and ultimately the people we serve.”
Many of the worksites are small non-profits started by one person who saw a need and addressed it through their God-given talents.
Lori Wilson, with the Rescue Ranch, is an example of this. She writes:
“Well, with all the volunteers we’ve been able to not only do maintenance but projects of improvement that wouldn’t have been possible due to the cost of labor. We also had the opportunity to teach empathy and plant seeds of HOPE… The prayer warriors (volunteers) that laid hands on for healing brought HOPE by FAITH for HEALING both horse and human lives.
…The ranch has been a safe haven for at risk youth, recovering addicts, women of domestic violence and our military dealing with PTSD. When I myself had exhausted all finances and physically was ready to give up the ministry, you sent me ANGELS that gave me the strength and encouragement to not give up.”
Community Project outreach not only benefits our community but the volunteers as well. It is a time for them to discover their God-given talents and see how they can be used in service to others. Through examples of best practices, they learn about our community, caring for the environment and the impact one person can have in making our society better.
WK Kellogg Foundation YMVP Grant Program
Kurt Jostes, Deputy Director
As part of an effort to expand our horizons and strengthen our capabilities, in 2015 we applied for and received a grant from the WK Kellogg Foundation as part of their Young Men’s Voices Have Power (YMVP) initiative.
Through this grant, we are empowering young men and boys of color from New Orleans through an internship opportunity with Camp Restore. Last September we welcomed Steven Willford and Caswick Naverro aboard as our first two YVMP interns. Over the past year, they’ve received one-on-one training in storytelling and filmmaking from experts in these fields, while engaging our volunteers and filming many hours which they are now editing into a number of final productions. They’ve joined our German interns in making their own unique personal impression on our organization.
In these ways, Steven and Caswick are helping us build organizational capacity to become more youth-centered, increase economic opportunities for and promote positive narratives about opportunity youth and young adults.
In conjunction with these efforts, the Kellogg Foundation and Harvard University are supporting our work in launching a study to learn more about our volunteers and the effects of volunteering at Camp Restore. Since January, we’ve been selecting random samples of volunteers who then take a short online survey, the results of which we will be analyzing with the help of New Orleans-area university students. We hope our findings will help to inform our efforts to continuously improve and have a greater positive impact in our service, and perhaps teach us something we weren’t expecting to learn.
Our second cohort of interns are scheduled to come aboard January 1, 2017 and we look forward to what they’ll bring to the table.