Thirty-seven Corban students, five adults from a partnering church and Director of Academic Services Daren Milionis spent a whirlwind week in New Orleans in December, restoring a family to its home.
Focusing completely on reconstruction, this group painted, textured, installed light fixtures, laid wood flooring and tile, installed kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures and landscaped a once-devastated home. They also built a deck on the backyard with a handicap-accessible ramp.
Student leader Cameron Curtis was connected with the Fisher family through Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans and flew out to assess what a group from Corban could do to help. This family of four had used all the money they received from their insurance claim to hire a contractor for reconstruction. At the end of their funds, their house was still not livable. Blaine, Jane, Blaine Jr. and Shane Fisher lived in a second-story apartment, a feat considering Shane is confined to a wheelchair.
“Shane has a seizure disorder and has to be kept in a wheelchair a lot. Hopefully his new home, his new room with carpet and his new wheelchair ramp will allow him to get in and out of his house easier and provide him with a safe place to play so he doesn't have to stay in his wheelchair so often,” said Corban student Sarah Whaley.
Corban students first raised $500 a person for the cost of travel and then amassed $13,000 to purchase all the needed supplies and appliances for the home, once they arrived in Louisiana.
They group flew out Dec. 13 and slept each night at a Baptist mission in the inner city. Another student-leader, Emily Kohl, is connected with a congregation in Hood River, which also wanted in on the action. Covenant Christian Church supplied five adults, one of them being a professional contractor who also provided most of the necessary equipment. And while some students came with building know-how, Ron Chamness, the contractor, taught all the volunteers skills to meet their overriding goal: to get the Fishers into their home by Christmas.
The house went from being isolated to being overrun by novice and experienced workers alike. Every room was under attack.
“It was fun to see the dramatic before-and-after of their home, however, it was even more exciting to see Jane, the Mom, walk through the house each day looking at the progress of her home with excitement in her eyes,” Whaley said.
The Fishers showed them Southern hospitality -- complete with gumbo and introductions to extended relatives. They were all one big family for a week.
"It was the Lord's grace that enabled us to get to the point of moving them in," said Milionis. He recalled one special blessing -- being miraculously connected with two men from Tennessee, also on a ministry trip.
"Our family had requested carpet in Shane’s room -- he falls a lot -- and we didn't know how to make that happen," Milionis said.
After a Sunday church service, one of the men from Tennessee, an extremely shy person, introduced himself to Chamness and asked if he had any needs. It turns out they were professional carpet-layers who also wanted to help a family get into their home by Christmas. Their project wasn't coming together, and they were scheduled to leave.
On their way out of New Orleans, the two men stopped at the Fisher home and installed the carpet within two hours.
"I don't usually talk to strangers," the shy man admitted. "I just felt like the Holy Spirit wanted me to talk to him."
By their departure deadline, this small army managed to move the Fishers and all their belongings into their refurbished home, complete with a lighted Christmas tree and gifts.