It looks like winter is actually here. At West Street Recovery (WSR) we’ve been balancing the busyness of the holiday celebrations in our own homes while doing our best to support folks who have little left to enjoy their celebrations.

At Thanksgiving we helped deliver meals to a number of families on our case list and a toy drive in New Orleans gave us the opportunity to play Santa and distribute toys to some other families. We’ve also been getting goods to grassroots organizations working to serve their communities with little to no assistance but who are doing some great work: the National Black United Front’s Feed the Hood and Njoya Weyusi Saturday School program and G.O.D.S. in the Tre’ Afrikan centered preschool program. Beyond our own efforts, WSR case managers also connected Texas children’s Hospital, who provided ten families children’s gifts for Christmas, and Thanksgiving meals for several others.

We also helped three families reach the move-back-in milestone by supporting their rebuild efforts. All three of those homes we helped sheetrock, tape and float so that they could move onto painting. It’s amazing how different a house looks with walls! One of the houses also needed major siding repair so we supported them with materials and volunteers. While three of these homes are finished, we are also nearly done with two other projects, one small back house and one kitchen and bedroom project that will allow a family to move out of their FEMA motel while the rest of their home is rebuilt.

WSR now has a decent sized list of cases needing rebuild assistance and our case management team is working double time so we’re trying to figure out how to make both those efforts more sustainable. The obvious solution is to get more folks on staff so we’ve been fundraising with that end in mind. We were cautious when we first started talking about providing some of our WSR members with stipends but we’re really glad we made the jump. The members who are getting paid are retaining their autonomy and vision; it’s never felt like they’re working for WSR but gosh dang they are tireless in their work!

We’re most excited to have a some new and very special folks join our crew; We’ve been assisting Petra and Raul in their rebuild and recently their adult children, Cindy and Javier joined WSR as members. They bring some great new energy to our projects and add new perspectives to our group..After we wrapped up the main projects at Petra and Raul’s house, Raul, Cindy and Javier joined our next rebuild project at the home of another Lakewood resident who has also distributed goods to his neighbors and mucked dozens of houses. Cindy kicks butt at taping and floating, Javier is so encouraging and fun to work with, and we’re so thankful our maestro Raul is still around so we can bug him with our amateur questions. From an organizer’s perspective, it feels really good to be participating in recovery efforts that attract folks who experienced the worst of a crisis themselves. We hope to continue incorporating more and more affected residents in our work. But beyond this, it’s amazing to work so closely with people who have lost most of everything, and are still in the throws of their own recovery, but who are so happy to make time to help their neighbors.

We hope y’all enjoyed safe, warm holidays. Thank you so much for your continued support! Happy New Year!