A brief history & what it's all about:
United Saints Recovery Project, Hurricane Katrina, Daryl Kiesow, Central City New Orleans, First Street and Dryades, First Street Peck & Wesley
United Saints Recovery Project, Hurricane Katrina, Daryl Kiesow, Central City New Orleans, First Street and Dryades, First Street Peck & Wesley
United Saints Recovery Project, Hurricane Katrina, Daryl Kiesow, Central City New Orleans, First Street and Dryades, First Street Peck & Wesley
United Saints Recovery Project, Hurricane Katrina, Daryl Kiesow, Central City New Orleans, First Street and Dryades, First Street Peck & Wesley
United Saints Recovery Project, Hurricane Katrina, Daryl Kiesow, Central City New Orleans, First Street and Dryades, First Street Peck & Wesley
United Saints Recovery Project, Hurricane Katrina, Daryl Kiesow, Central City New Orleans, First Street and Dryades, First Street Peck & Wesley
It all started in 2005, when a church in New Orleans opened its doors to volunteers for the recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina. First Street Peck Wesley United Methodist Church, as it is now known, was founded in 1833 and has served as the center of the neighborhood surrounding First Street and Dryades ever since. In early post-Katrina New Orleans, however, it was struggling for its life. Reeling from “The Storm,” with a badly leaking roof, and with much of its congregation missing, it had nevertheless become the only relief center for Central City. The small group of volunteers camping in the church began to reach out and, that December, Mission Minnesota arrived with a tractor-trailer full of supplies and more hands to help, including a roofer named Daryl Kiesow. What follows is a remarkable story that spans thirteen years and counting, but the story began with a church that opened its doors to volunteers. Daryl volunteered for a few weeks to fix the church roof and went home to Minnesota, but he didn’t stay there long. During those weeks he spent on top of the church roof, he had been looking out on a sea of blue tarp-covered roofs and block after block of empty water-damaged houses. Daryl had gone to New Orleans the first time on a leap of faith. He went home with an idea and returned with a mission. By the time he returned, many New Orleans residents were beginning to realize that the recovery was going to take a lot longer than anyone thought and it was going to be harder than anyone imagined. By now up to a 100 volunteers a day were using the church as a home and a rally point as they went out into the neighborhood to tarp and gut damaged homes. By late 2007, this group decided to leave the church for another location and the work in Central City ground to a stop. Daryl stayed behind because he believed that Central City still needed him and he believed First Street UMC was the key to unlocking this historically under-served and tightly-knit neighborhood. After a few weeks of working by himself, the church members gave him the green light to find some more volunteers and start all over again. Volunteers started to come again, in two’s and three’s at first, and then in dozens until Daryl needed long-term help managing them. Marocs Rucinzski came from Oshkosh, Wisconsin in answer to a Craigslist posting. He was soon followed by Leann Payne. At some point, no one seems sure exactly when, Tim appeared and Daryl’s vision began to take shape. Along with gutting and rebuilding 55 homes that first year, they rebuilt an abandoned church property at the corner of First Street and Dryades, made some bunk beds, and opened it for volunteers. That first volunteer house had 20 beds. More would follow and they would eventually be managing up to 120 volunteers a day. That was the beginning of United Saints Recovery Project, officially chartered in 2008 to assist the disadvantaged home owners and distressed neighborhoods of New Orleans. Ten years and over 10,000 volunteers later, we’re still here and First Street PW United Methodist Church is still our home. From here in Central City, we host week-long service groups throughout the year and harness that volunteer power all over New Orleans and beyond. We house them, feed them, put tools in their hands, give them a job to do and a leader to show them how to do it. We’ve rebuilt or repaired over 300 homes since our beginning, but the needs of New Orleans residents continue to change and we continue to adapt. Today, there are entire neighborhoods that have not yet recovered and have blocks of abandoned buildings and vacant lots, but people still live there. We assist these distressed neighborhoods through a variety of blight interventions and community cleanups. On the other hand, more and more now we hear from home owners in neighborhoods that have finally recovered, but their recovery has had some unintended consequences. The physical and cultural fabric of these neighborhoods is eroding as the limited means of long-standing residents come into conflict with newer interests. People who held on through the Katrina years now feel pressured to leave. So, while we are still bringing families home to this day, we are also helping them keep their homes. We are also a disaster response organization and have completed mobile responses in Houma, LA after Hurricane Gustav (2008), Tuscaloosa, AL after a series of tornadoes (2011), Laplace, LA after hurricane Isaac (2012), Kenner, LA after a tornado (2015), Baton Rouge and Denham Springs after a extensive flooding (2016), New Orleans East after a tornado (2017), New Orleans’ 7th Ward after a flood (2017), and Port Arthur, TX after Hurricane Harvey (2017). It is this disaster recovery work especially that has brought to light something that underlies our mission. Every time we have gone to a disaster stricken community there has been another church willing to open its doors to volunteers, but where do these volunteers come from? The disasters of the future, with the long road to recovery and the consequences that lie at the end will continue to show that our social fabric has gaps in it. These gaps must be filled by people willing to give their time. The volunteer spirit, the belief that we all have a duty to serve, must be learned first-hand and it must be carefully fostered if it is going to be handed down. That is what United Saints Recovery Project really is. We are our volunteers. Without you, it all stops. Those of us fortunate enough to be the caretakers would like to thank you, in all of your many thousands, for keeping the vision alive. United Saints Recovery Project is you.

United Saints Recovery Project

2309 Dryades Street

New Orleans, LA

70113

(504)233-8883

volunteer@unitedsaints.org

www.unitedsaints.org

United Saints Recovery Project is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit public charity

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