"Hammerin' Irish" to build house in five days
on Higher Ground
For release June 13, 2006
The "Hammerin' Irish" - nearly 50 alumni from the University of Notre Dame - come to Shreveport from states throughout the nation on Sunday, June 18, to build a house in less than a week for a hurricane evacuee family now living in Shreveport.
This 10th house in the "Building on Higher Ground" project will be started Monday and completed Friday in the 1500 block of Clay Street in Shreveport's Allendale neighborhood.
"Higher Ground" is a nonprofit partnership between The Fuller Center for Housing, Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal, Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Louisiana and other groups. The Fuller Center has committed to build at least 60 houses in Shreveport for hurricane evacuees and local residents in need of quality, affordable housing. Hundreds of volunteers are coming from across the country to help with this endeavor.
Notre Dame alumni of all ages are coming from 15 states for the annual "Hammerin' Irish" build - taking place this year for the first time outside of South Bend, Ind.
"We come to the build both selflessly and selfishly. We come to give of ourselves and our talents and always end up receiving so much more than we give. The love and appreciation that we take away from a build is impossible to express in words," said Bob Hyneckeal, a 1967 Notre Dame graduate from Reisterstown, Md., who is co-project leader. He and his wife, Gretchen, have been involved with Habitat for Humanity since 1997 and have done many blitz builds, including several with President Jimmy Carter.
The "Hammerin' Irish" program was created in 1998 to engage alumni in meaningful service through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Each June nearly 50 alumni and friends dedicate their summer vacation to building a new home for a deserving family in less than five days.
This house will be built for Charles and Dorothy Wiley, hurricane evacuees from New Orleans who were trapped at the Superdome for four days after Katrina flooded the city. At least 10 feet of water flooded their three-bedroom apartment after the levees protecting the city broke.
"We didn't know if we were going to drown or what," Dorothy said. "After two days there was a lot of anger and looting and that's when the fear rose up in me. I was tired and angry and didn't think I could take it anymore."
The horrifying ordeal temporarily separated the family, as they were taken by helicopter to the airport after four days. Charles and their daughter Marqueesha, who was suffering from her asthma, were then sent to Houston while Dorothy and the grandchildren were put on a flight to San Antonio. They all finally reunited there and then headed to Shreveport, La., where they had relatives and where they have made a new start.
"When I heard about the Building on Higher Ground program I said I needed to apply for one of those houses. I put in my application and when we got approved, there was quite a celebration," she said.
"This was like starting our whole life all over again. I am so thankful. I like home ownership and knowing this is mine. That's a big investment and if I don't have anything else, I have a home to call my own. This is what I will leave to my children."
Maribeth Meaux, who lives near Chicago, is joining a "Hammerin' Irish" build for the second year in a row. Her husband is taking a week off work to stay home with their two young children so that she can volunteer her time in Shreveport.
"My experience last June with the Hammerin' Irish as we built a house for a family in South Bend was the highlight of my year and I can't wait for this year's project. As a Catholic who has been searching for ways to live out the Gospel message to bring good news to the poor and to love our neighbor, working on Habitat for Humanity or Fuller Center homes for those less fortunate is an ideal opportunity. It is so satisfying to put in a hard week's worth of work and to see the completion of a beautiful home that will help get a family started on the road to a better life," she said.
"I am looking forward to building this home in Shreveport because I felt so powerless when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last year. It was painful to watch the coverage of the devastation and to see so many poor families lose everything they had. This build will finally be a chance for those of us who have so many blessings to help one family who endured so much hardship because of the hurricane. I plan to be involved in future alumni builds as well. To me, spending a week doing this kind of work is better than any vacation - even though I may be a little sore and tired, the camaraderie and the sense of doing God's work energizes me."
Sean O'Brien, director of the Alumni Community Service Program, said the week of service fits right in with the standards taught at the university.
"The Notre Dame education instills faith-based values and a lifelong commitment to serving others, as manifested by the continual service efforts of our global network of alumni and friends. The "Hammerin' Irish" program was created in 1998 to engage our alumni in meaningful service through our partnership with Habitat for Humanity," he said.
"Typically these homes have been built within the surrounding Notre Dame community of South Bend, Indiana. However, in wake of the unprecedented destruction inflicted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita last summer, our alumni did not hesitate in supporting the decision to extend the hands of friendship and love to our neighbors in the South."
O'Brien said the group is looking forward to meeting and working with the Wiley family.
"We are proud to go to Louisiana to help rebuild the hopes and dreams of Dorothy and Charles Wiley and their family. We are grateful to the Fuller Center for Housing for helping us make this project a reality. In addition, we are grateful to Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal and Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Louisiana for their vision, care and unwavering support of this renewal effort."
Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal is a nonprofit effort to restore safe and healthy communities through caring relationships. Founded in 1994, SBCR reaches at-risk youth through Friendship Houses built in impoverished neighborhoods, strengthens education through the Adult Renewal Academy, partners with The Fuller Center for Housing and connects caring partners who turn their neighborhoods into safe havens of friendship and support.
Contact: David Westerfield, director of communications