We recently had the pleasure of working on the home of Clifton and Kerry Davis. The couple who live in Lake Charles, LA., is newly retired and hoped to start traveling in 2020. Clifton, an avid fisherman, made plans with his mother-in-law to take a family trip to Canada. Due to COVID, they put their travel plans on hold and remained in their Lake Charles home. Hopeful that the trip wouldn’t be put off for too long, Clifton would fish locally to pass the time, often returning empty handed to his wife Kerry’s dismay. She would ask him what is the point if not to catch anything? He explained that the act of fishing is the reward, he appreciates the peace in the movements and being with nature. He finally convinced her to accompany him, and she, too, now understands the joy of fishing. 

In August, choosing to heed the evacuation warnings for Hurricane Laura, the Davises waited out the storm in Baton Rouge. Upon their return, they found there is extensive damage to their house. Already feeling beaten down by the first hurricane, they were hit again by Hurricane Delta. The mold was spreading throughout, and they were feeling helpless in the struggle to manage a home that was unsafe and uninhabitable. 

When it came time for our team to work with the Davises, the homeowners were unsure where to start. The NECHAMA and Americorps teams worked with Kerry and Clifton to help them feel comfortable with the decisions and actions necessary for the house, removing most of the ceiling to prevent the spread of the mold. Kerry especially felt overwhelmed, sorting through all the personal belongings. We took special care to accompany her in this task to help make the best decisions for her family and salvage what we could. After two days of work, she was finally able to gain some hope after seeing all the progress made. 

The physical labor that we perform has an emotional impact too. Towards the end of the workweek, exhausted and finding motivation dwindling, we returned from our lunch break and found Clifton rocking out to some R&B. Minutes later, we were all joining an impromptu dance party in their yard. A welcome break from the stress and weariness of the situation. Our goal and mission are to provide comfort and hope to others in these difficult times; most of the time, we find that we are the ones on the receiving end. 

Our time with Clifton and Kerry Davis was an intense two days with eight volunteers over 100 hours. In the end, we departed with them feeling capable and confident to move into the next phase of rebuilding.  Unfortunately, for Clifton’s mother-in-law, too much time had gone by, and the Canada trip did not happen before her passing. This trip is especially meaningful now, and they hope to disembark as soon as the house is in order, and it is safe to travel.