Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Well friends,

In case you haven't heard, I have very sad news, at least for me. The time has come for me to leave Home Again and approach the rebuilding effort from another direction. There are many reasons for my decision, most of them difficult to explain. It is difficult for me to do. I love Pass Christian and the people I have been trying to help here. I'd love to stay just for Merle (pictured above), or just for Valena, or just for the Hoangs.

But, for many reasons it's time for me to move on. I'm including below a short summary of our accomplishments over the past year. There have been many obstacles and many things I would have done differently if we could do it all over again. I have written other summaries that explain those issues in detail. Here, however, I'd like to focus solely on the positive. And so, here is my summary and conclusion:


New Homes:

These statistics represent the status of Home Again projects as of February 15, 2007, a little over a year into the process:
· 10 families moved into new homes
· 11 more homes under construction
· 5 more closed on, soon to start
· 9 more spots to fill, with very likely candidates in the process

Each of these homes represents an individual or family which we helped through the entire process. We selected the participants through a fair and impartial process, working through over 160 applications from our selected area of focus. We helped each participant to maximize every available option and arrive at a workable financial formula that would allow them to build their new home. We were able to guide them through a closing process to receive a forgivable loan for amounts between $50,000.00 and $80,000.00.

We found a way for each of these participants to pay for the rest of the house, either with their own funds, or with funds coming from a variety of other sources, including: SBA loans, FEMA grants, ICC grants, mortgages, personal savings, and insurance proceeds. We helped each of them to get a clear title, elevation survey, and other necessary requirements for rebuilding. We helped each applicant through the entire construction process, from the contract to the finished product. Also, keep in mind, that we started this process with many more people than the ones that were able to make it through to the closing. I estimate that we worked with at least 30 applicants for extended periods of time, who eventually either decided against our program or at some point could not meet the requirements.


Modular Breakthroughs:

Our initial objective was to build hurricane-safe, environmentally-friendly, modular homes for specific families, in a hurricane-ravaged area, quickly. This was a very tall order. Despite the difficulties, we did accomplish the following milestones:

1) We basically pioneered modular construction in Mississippi. We accomplished what no one else was accomplishing. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, modular housing in Mississippi was nearly non-existent. We basically attracted and coached five different modular companies through the process of building modular homes on the Mississippi Coast.

2) We pushed these five modular companies to be as “green” as they’ve ever been. This was a difficult task, and many of us would have liked to see even more environmentally-friendly elements in the homes. We pushed hard. We gained some ground. In the end, we ended up with a rather high standard of quality, energy efficiency, and environmental friendliness.

3) We “wrestled” through Mississippi’s laws for regulating modular housing. This was a painfully slow process, but we dug in deep and pioneered our way through.

And, all of this was done in a “hurricane vacuum”. Everything we needed was scarce. Early on we figured we had a perfectly clean slate to work with, but we quickly realized that the slate was so clean that it was gone. We basically had to start inventing from scratch.


Other Projects:

By simply being in the community, and engaging in the overall recovery effort, I was also able to help many people who we were not able to help with our “normal” program, as described above. By partnering with other groups and individuals, Home Again was able to assist with the following projects:

5 demolition / recovery / salvage projects
3 repairs / remodels
10 new homes
6 Salvation Army grants for up to $10,000 each

I played varying roles in these projects, but all of them were supremely rewarding, and to me, just as important as the work we did through the “regular” program.


Intangibles:

With all of this, there is also an overwhelming mass of intangibles. These are the things that statistics alone cannot express; relationships, friendships, partnerships, collaborations. Basically, much more happened than just these numbers. I was here. I lived it. I cried and worked with these people and I will never forget them and their experiences.

I also established positive relationships with various citizens, local leaders, contractors, and other key players in the recovery effort. I was able to collaborate, share, help, and learn from many other individuals and organizations involved in the same cause.

I’m not bragging, but I can say with confidence, that at the end of the day, regardless of what the statistics do or do not show, Home Again has done a lot of good.


Conclusion:

Home Again has been very successful in leading the way for other hurricane recovery efforts. We have successfully built several high-quality homes in a post-disaster environment. The effort has not been without its challenges. In many ways I feel like we have been a guinea pig and learned many different forms of what not to do.

It has been a long and wild ride. I have never put so much of my life into one, concentrated effort. It has been difficult, and it has been worth it.

I am grateful to those who donated considerable amounts of time and money to make this project happen. Without them, none of this would have been possible. I am also grateful to the organization that sent me down here to do this. Despite my frustrations and our differences, I am grateful that they gave me the chance to come down here and “set up shop”.

In the end, it will be the smiles of the people I have worked with that will matter. I have gained many close friends through this effort. It has truly been a joy and a privilege to witness and assist with their path toward recovery and renewal.

I have absolutely fallen in love with Pass Christian. There is just something about this town that is so comfortable and endearing, even after all they have been through. I shouldn’t be partial in my desire to help people recover from the hurricane, but I am. The Pass has a special place in my heart, and I consider it a privilege that I have been able to spend the majority of my hurricane recovery efforts with them. I have met amazing people here, people who are tirelessly committed to rebuilding their lives and their town at the same time. I have met many people who are helping others rebuild and they haven’t even started with their own homes. Their determination, their gratitude, their strength, their pioneer spirit have truly been an inspiration to me.

I now move on to Biloxi to work with the East Biloxi Coordination Center, a long term recovery committee that is actively engaged in the rebuilding process. Hopefully this will give me the chance to approach the goal from another angle. I am also trying to keep one foot in the Pass, by keeping in touch with my friends there, and also helping other volunteer groups as they continue to build homes in Pass Christian. Regardless of what happens, I am sure I will gain new and different insights and perspectives that will shape the way I see the overall recovery effort. And, of course, you can bet on the fact that at some point in the not-too-distant future, I’ll probably put it all on paper and make you read it, or at least give you the opportunity.

-------------------------

At the time of Hurricane Katrina, my family and I lived near Jackson, Mississippi. As we were still coping with our own inconveniences caused by the hurricane, we began to see our first images of the Coast. We stared in shock at a 12-inch, black-and-white TV, running off a generator in the garage. We saw those aerial views of huge swaths of land that used to be neighborhoods, restaurants, and business, totally decimated by the wrath of the storm. We saw cargo containers scattered about like toys, casinos on the wrong side of the highway, bridges destroyed, unimaginable destruction -- and we knew we had to come and help.

A year-and-a-half later, it’s been a long and difficult road for us. We have at times questioned our decision to completely change our lives because of the desire to respond to one tragic event. But, when I look back at what we’ve experienced here, the tangible and the intangible, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. To have been on the front lines of such an unprecedented recovery effort, to meet and know the people who’ve been involved, to be inspired by countless examples of heroism and optimism in the face of such an overpowering tragedy, to have helped in some small way to re-establish a sense of order, a sense of peace, a sense of home . . . undoubtedly it has been worth the effort.

Until next time,
Brandon

Tuesday, February 13, 2007



















These pictures show Robert and Celeste's house (red) and John's house (yellow). Both houses were set yesterday. I tried to show the sequence of events with Robert and Celeste's house. I especially like the first two pictures. These two are symbolic of what we're doing. You see Celeste and the kids sitting on the steps of the Fema Trailer. The Crane is in the middle, and the house is in the foreground.

These houses were built by Centera, a small modular company out of Texas. For the most part, we are impressed. These are the most "finished" modular houses I've seen yet, as far as what is done in the factory.

Anyway, there's a little snippet of what's going on. It's good to see more and more houses going up in the Pass, both Home Again houses and others. It's amazing to see a re-emerging community. Of course, it's all about individuals, helping people come home one at a time. But, now, as we begin to see clusters of four and five houses going up right next to each other, Mennonite houses, Home Again houses, private contractors, individuals building back themselves with the help of volunteers and the Salvation Army. . . Now we're finally getting a sense of restoring neighborhoods, restoring communities. It's wonderful to see. And it's good to know we're a part of it.

Until next time,
Brandon














Ok, friends,

We pulled off a "blitz" on Yvonne's house by re-covering the entire exterior, including caulking and painting, in six days. Yvonne is finally in, for real this time, and we are all relieved and elated, especially her!

The picture on the right shows Karen's interior. She also recently moved in and the house looks great.

Many things are happening. I'm trying to keep the pictures coming and the commentary to a minimum. In light of that, here come some more pictures.

Until next time,
Brandon

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Hello Everyone,

I've posted some new pictures to give you some updates. This doesn't represent every house we've got going, but it at least gives you an idea of where we stand on some of the finished and almost finished houses. Things continue to move forward. We're waiting on title searches for five new families. They've chosen plans with both Modular One and Safeway Homes modular companies. We're going forward with lot preparation and permit issues. As soon as clear titles come back we'll pull some triggers!

This first picture is Barbara's completed home. I stopped by to see her Friday and it was very inspiring. To see how happy she was makes an entire year of effort worth it. She loves her home. She has it decorated very beautifully. As we hugged and talked it was wonderful to see her dream fulfilled. Many times she told me to "just have faith". "Brandon," she would say, "I just have this feeling that God is going to take care of me, that one day I'm going to be sitting up there in my sweet, little home and it's all going to work out." You were right, Barbara, and I'm so glad your vision has become a reality.

Enjoy the rest of the pictures, and I promise more to come!

Until next time,

Brandon



This is Rudy and Gwen's house. They have moved in and the house looks gorgeous, especially the interrior! They chose some great options for inside and they really make it feel "customized". This was our first house from Franklin Homes modular company. They did a pretty good job, fairly quick and a great price. Our only complaint is lots of head-aches working with their local dealer. But, now that the head-aches are over and Rudy and Gwen and I are all happy!


This is Yvonne's house. She's been about to move in for almost eight weeks now and it's about to drive all of us crazy. If it could go wrong it has. The house looks great, and the structure is extremely well-built. Unfortunately we've had issues with everything else, from the exterior mag-board and finish, the gas, electrical, you name it. Some houses just don't have the planets ligned up for them. Yvonne has been extremely patient and helped with some of the leg work and follow up for getting things done. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, she should get the green light tomorrow to move in. No one will have deserved it more. Congratulations, Yvonne, and thanks for being so good to work with! Your house looks great! I love the screened porch!



This is Margie's home. She's a wonderful woman and deserves a wonderful house! And this is it. It's got the L-shaped porch, the hip roof, completely hardi-board exterior (including underneath), and will soon have an elevator, too. This is another one by Veridian Homes. The price was fabulous and it's been pretty quick, too. Margie is ecstatic and very trusting of the builder. When he asked her to come choose her exterior colors she responded, "Pick me out a good yellow that you think I would like." This is one of our highest elevations so far, about 13 feet from the dirt to the living room floor, but I think it's well built and looks good, too. It won't be long now, Margie!



These are Valena's and the Hoang's houses, our first two of the Palm Harbor / Discovery Custom modulars. We've run into many snags with these houses, but they are finally here and getting "zipped up". Valena's is farther along on the exterior trim; the Hoangs have their steps in first. These two houses should be ready for move in within two to three weeks. Both families have been very patient, both are glad to see progress, and both are anxiously anticipating their move-in dates!


This is Karen's house. She is on the verge of moving in; hopefully just a few days away. I really like the look of the house. It's different and it's classy. The screened porch, metal roof, and unique windows are just a few things that make this house stand out. Karen already had her plans drawn up and a builder in mind and this was when we were having lots of modular problems. We put Brandon Evans (Veridian Homes) on it and he's done a great job in my opinion. Most notably he's been very fast for a sight built house, even beating some of the modular houses that were signed on before this one. Thanks, Brandon, and congratulations, Karen!


This is Rod's house. Finally. His was a long time in coming; the last of the five in the "original batch" from Carolina Building Solutions. We were able to put the house far enough back to save the Live Oak tree. Rod is in the process of moving in and glad to be getting into his new home.


Jackie and Helen's house. They moved in about a week ago. This was our first house with Modular One (Nadine's is the second). Overall we were impressed with the delivery, service, and timing. A few areas for improvement, of course, but we've been over them and the Modular One people seem to be eager to make adjustments and make us happy. Most importantly we want to make Helen and Jackie, and others like them happy. We're well on our way. Congratulations Helen and Jackie!



More pictures for the photo album. This is Nadine's house. It was just set last week, so they're still touching up inside and haven't done porches and steps yet. It's a big house with some pretty impressive features inside. Nadine is excited and so are we to see another home in the Pass!

Monday, January 15, 2007


Greetings from Pass Christian,

Well, things continue to move forward here in the Pass. We had two more houses set right before Christmas, bringing our total to14 houses on the ground. We’ve had six homeowners move in, with four more either ready to move in or awaiting final inspections. We have eight more people, in addition, that have signed contracts and either have a foundation or are waiting on a foundation. At least five of those eight are houses that are completed at the factory or already on-line. We’re quickly trying to fill 12 more slots to complete the secondary funding group, and we’re also about to finalize plans to do up to 35 more houses as a Phase III.

So, things are pretty busy.

On top of it all, I was able to help out with a blitz build this week on Seal Avenue. This was a partnership with Camp Coast Care that has an interesting story. A group from St. James Episcopal in Jackson, MS came down a few months ago to work for a couple of days and we happened to cross paths. I had worked with these guys on Habitat houses in Jackson, and they were always our best blitz crew. So, when they told me about their plans to come down and build three houses in a week, it was a no-brainer. Turns out one of the houses was going to be for Alphonse Campbell, a man who had originally applied for Home Again, and his lot is right in between Karen’s house and Willy’s, both of which we’ve helped construct through Home Again.

The blitz was a bold undertaking and we took it. It was wild and crazy and a lot of fun. Not to mention the fact that we built Alphonse a house in a week. It was a tremendous sense of re-inspiration for me to work with dedicated volunteers from all over the country who wanted to work long after dark every night and start again before sunrise the next day. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of.

As we look at benchmarks and milestones, here is a sobering thought: the Pass Christian newspaper announced last week that the Postal Service will begin delivering mail this week to all areas in Pass Christian. This doesn’t mean the Post Office building is back; they’re still operating out of trailers on Espy Avenue. In fact, the old Post Office hasn’t even been torn down yet. But, they did announce that they do plan to rebuild on the same site. That is good. But, consider for a moment what this means. Imagine what it would take in your neighborhood for the mail carrier not to deliver the mail. Then imagine what it would take for the mail not to get delivered to your house for almost a year and a half! Most people have been able to get their mail at the temporary outdoor post office boxes set up at the Espy location, and mail delivery has been gradually coming back to different areas. But, to have full mail service not restored until a year and a half after a storm is pretty amazing.

This is still the front lines. We are still at the beginning of the recovery / rebuilding process. We are making progress. Buildings are going up here and there. Businesses are getting back into their buildings. Homes are being built. But, this is still just the beginning. It’s still sobering to drive down the road and see two or three houses surrounded by empty lots. It’s still strange to think that these were once thriving little neighborhoods with houses one after the other up and down the street.

The task is still daunting. The need is still enormous. But, at least we’re doing something. At least we’re getting somewhere. To drive by Barbara’s house and see her now living in it, to see the Cardreons moving in, and Rod, and Karen, and the rest; to see Alphonse about to leave his trailer and get into his new little mansion, to see more houses going in, more contracts getting signed, more resources coming in, more groups coming to help, more foundations going in, more houses getting finished -- to see all of this and remember how far we’ve come, that’s what keeps us going.

I know I’m not really a citizen of the Pass, but I feel like an adoptee. I feel like I’ve taken on the Pass and adopted this community as my own. Ever since that amazing drive down North Street, dodging houses and debris, just two weeks after the hurricane, I’ve felt a strong and lasting connection to this community. Now, a year and a half later, I feel like I’m part of the community. I feel like I’ve worked and shared and struggled with these people enough to be on their side. I’ve worked with enough families here that they feel like family.

Working with this volunteer group this week from all over the country I felt compelled to say, “Thank-you for coming to help us.” And I mean it.


Until next time,

Brandon

Friday, December 08, 2006





Here are a few pictures of Pass Christian before Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes we have to be reminded. Sometimes I forget that Pass Christian was once a cute, vibrant, green, fence-lined little town, a harbor community with character and charm. I get used to driving up and down rough streets with overgrown, barren lots. I get used to driving past slab after slab that used to be businesses and schools and resturaunts and stores. I get used to going to the "new" downtown, a huddling of trailers and tents. I sometimes forget the severity of the loss. But from time to time I am reminded.

By chance last night I watched a digital slideshow of the pictures my family had taken when they came last February. It was set to music and showed the devastation and the projects they worked on while they were here. The song that always sticks in my head is "Feels Like Home". It brought back a lot of memories, reminded me why I'm here, reminded me why I came.

It's funny how you get used to things. A couple weeks ago if finally hit me that we will never rebuild the coast. We will never rebuild it the way it was. Things change. We'll never put everybody back. We'll never re-create the pre-Katrina Pass Christian.

I'm an undying optimist and I feel like I'm championing the cause of rebuilding. I applaud the people who have stayed and begun to rebuild. They are pioneers, my heroes. And I'm committed to a new Pass Christian, a new coast. But, we'll never bring back the old one. People have moved. People have sold their land. Some will never rebuild. As I look at the "before" pictures on the internet I'm most floored by how green and clean-cut everything was. The leaves had trees. The grass was green and short. People had neat little fences. We'll never bring that back the way it was. We'll build a new community. That's all we can do. Those who've stayed, those who are committed will create a new Pass Christian. We can try to make it better, stronger, even more beautiful. But, it will always be different.

Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we can make it better. But it's going to take time. Wow, so much time. Almost a year and a half later even the trees are still trying to recover. All we can do is follow their lead; hang on, bring back a few leaves, a few branches at time, hold on to what we've got, and try to grow a little more every year.

Last Friday night I took my family to Christmas in the Pass in the park. It was packed, and a lot of fun. I was amazed by how many people were there. I tend to work with my little group of people I'm trying to help rebuild. I tend to think they're the only ones still in the Pass. Not so. There are plenty of people, plenty of families who are here to stay. Plenty enough to form a community. Plenty to make a new town, a new life.

Bright lights had been set up in the park for the event. They shone out across the festivities, but I noticed there were still shadows created by the booths and tables and people and things. I looked up and noticed that the bright lights completely illuminated the massive Live Oaks. They looked like they were glowing against the backdrop of the night sky. They looked alive -- a fitting symbol for a community still willing to hang on, still willing to try, to live, to rebuild, to celebrate the good things in life. It was good to have my family there and feel a part of such a community.

Yes, we will rebuild. It won't be the same. It will be different. Nevertheless, we will rebuild. We can't bring the old Pass Christian back. But we can make the new Pass Christian something wonderful. We can take all the determination, all the spirit, all the heart, all the culture, all the life that survived the storm, and all the good that has emerged since the storm, combine it with all of the new influences, the thousands of volunteers from all around the world who've helped make it what it is today, the new designs, new builders, new people who've contributed -- and with all of that, plus a little more grit and determination and patience, it's hard to see how we could end up with anything other than something great.

Once again, I'm grateful to be a part of it.

We had a wonderful celebration last Thursday. The ECD board invited board members, funders, homeowners, and local members of the community to attend a celebration of the progress that has been made with Home Again. I, personally, would usually rather be digging ditches than holding press conferences. But, this event turned out to be really special. A few key people spoke, including Barbara and Yvonne, who are about to move into their homes. The mayor spoke, the funders, a few locals, and it was done. Nothing fancy. Just a chance to say congratulations to the families who have been able to rebuild. It was just a good chance to look back over the effort and realize, "Wow, look how far we've come!" It was inspiring. It made me want to keep going, keep helping, keep building. I think I will.

More houses are going in, more foundations, more contracts, more new people. I have some days where I make 30 phone calls, meet with three new people, put out fires with contractors, fix a door knob, haul off garbage, oversee a closing, track down information from the tax commissioner, frame up a section of roof, answer e-mails, look at new houses, try to get checks moving, make up a draw schedule, balance an escrow account, track down SBA, take pictures of a new foundation attachment, give a builder a draw, fuss about something on a house that's not right, rub shoulders with other non-profits, design a new business card, and come up with a spread sheet to help me track it all. Then after lunch I do more of the same. It's days like that, where I get to do a million totally different things all in the name of helping a few people take a few steps forward, grow a few more branches, establish a few new roots -- it's days like that that make me proud to be part of the effort. It's days like that that make me feel like we can accomplish this monumental effort.

We may not ever biuld it back the way it was. In fact, I know we won't. But, we will rebuild. We will do our best to build upon the original character and charm of Pass Christian. And we will try to make it better and stronger, one small branch at a time. These people have made it through a lot. They have been shaken, and dis-possessed, and frustrated. But, they are full of courage and determination and strength. We'll build on that.

Until next time,

Brandon

Monday, November 20, 2006



Hello Again,

Just another quick picture update. This is the inside of Rudy and Gwen's house. We've been through the ringer on this one (as is usally the case), but the house is finally here. It was delivered to the lot first, and now we're making arrangements to have it set on its foundation.

Anyway, for all the trouble they've been through to make it happen, I was impressed that the interior looks really good. Hopefully we're going to set this house on the 30th, so if you're coming for the tour you may see this house in motion!

Until next time,

Brandon






This is Barbara's house, steps and all! It's hard not to be proud of this house. Barbara has a hard time with steps, so we wanted to put as many landings as possible. We ended up with a pretty cool step configuration, if I say so myself.

Plus, we gave Barbara's house a little "fru-fru", the trim at the top of the columns, just to dress it up a little, and make it a little more "coastal".

Anyway, she is tickled to death and ready to move in any minute. Hopefully the house will be ready for her in the next week or two.

It will be a great day when she moves in. Her prophecy will finally come true. Every time we ran into a snag she would say, "Y'know Brandon, I just have this feeling that God's going to take care of me, and one day I'm gonna be sittin' in my little house right there on my lot."

Until next time,
Brandon


Hello Again,

Here's a picture of the Safeway house. This house was on display at the Governor's Expo. We had been talking with Safeway since the beginning, and they offered us a good price on this model house, so we took it. Safeway has the only modular plant in Mississippi that was here before hurricane Katrina.

The house has it's pro.s and con.s, like the rest of them, but it's a decent house and we were offered them, but they gave us a decent price, so we took it. We purchased a lot on Woodman Ave. and set it a few weeks ago. It now has steps and we're working toward final trim outs with sub-contractors. Hopefully it will be ready in a couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted.

Until next time,

Brandon



Hello everyone!

This is Karen Saucier's house, and it's looking good! Actually, since this picture was taken they have sided the exterior and started the sheetrock. This is one of our sight-built homes, done by Brandon Evans of Veridian Homes. The house has some great "hurricane-safe" features, i.e. 5/8 inch plywood for roof and exterior sheathing (glued and screwed), concrete piers with 1/4 inch steel connections, extra simpson straps on floor joists, wall studs, and rafters. On top of it all, it's just a good looking house! We are impressed so far with Brandon's work (we should have known he'd be good, just by the name), and Karen is very happy. She underwent surgery a couple weeks ago and literally watched her house come together while she was recovering.

The sight-built vs. modular debate rages on. It's hard to compare oranges and apples. There's a wide range of modular and a wide range of sight-built. I, personally, have my biases after having dealt with a good bit of housing here on the coast. Modular is a good concept in theory, but we're having a hard time finding companies who can put that theory into practice. What we want is a fast, well-built, affordable, attractive, energy-efficient house. We've been promised a lot of things from both camps, but so far, as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out. There are a few modular companies emerging as "reputable", and we are still trying to do as much modular as possible. But in the meantime, as circumstances have determined, we've done a few sight-built houses. Karen had some tricky lot issues that would have made modular difficult. She also already had her plans drawn up for her house. We had a good builder and so we went with sight-built. And so far, the house looks really good. I'll keep you posted.

Until next time,

Brandon

Monday, October 30, 2006




















First, a rundown of the pictures: All but the bottom picture were taken at the Palm Harbor modular plant in Austin, Texas. Gray Kelly of Southface, and I went to Austin to check out two of our houses and do some fine-tuning on the green spec.s. The top picture shows an exterior wall being craned up and over to the next stage. Second from the top is an insulation review with Gray and Bob Hinman (project manager at Palm Harbor). The next three pictures (kitchen, tiled shower, and half of a house) are all pictures of the Hoang's nearly completed house. Second from the bottom is a picture of (from the left) Gray Kelly, myself, Bob Hinman, and Keith Alexander (Division President at the Austin plant).

It was good to see two of our houses about two days away from completion. It's hard to judge an incomplete house, but I was impressed with some of the detail, i.e. crown molding, cabinets, tile work, etc. Valena and the Hoang family have had to go through plenty of plant changes and modular politics. It's good to finally see some results and realize that we're almost there.

The plant tour also had a second purpose. Gray Kelly helped us go through all the green spec.s of the two houses in production and possible adjustments for future houses. This proved to be incredibly helpful. Palm Harbor is already mostly "on track" with the green spec.s we're looking for. They already have a good partnership with the Florida Solar Energy Center, a key partner in the certification process, and they already meet and exceed some pretty strict standards established by the city of Austin.

So, we were already off to a good start. And Gray's expertise was a huge help. In a matter of twenty minutes he was able to spell out the key components of the green gamut. We went down the list and compared current practices to future possibles. The next day we toured the plant, examined insulation practices, duct work, fixtures, plumbing, the works. The bottom line is they already produce a pretty green house, and with a few changes we're confident we can get an Energy Star certification on the next houses that come out of the plant.

Hats off to Gray and Bob and Keith for a very progress-filled 24 hours.

And finally, the bottom picture shows Don, Jerry, Mark, and Brad in front of their porch steps in progress. This was the second wave of volunteers from the Church at Stone's Crossing out of Indiana. They were great and accomplished a huge amount of porch in just three days. They also got the chance to talk with Barbara, the homeowner, and that was a great experience. Barbara showed them the picture of her house in the newspaper (an arial photo of her house sitting on the railroad tracks), and we talked for quite a while. Towards the end of the conversation Barbara said, "Y'know, when I came back to see the damage after the storm I didn't cry, not one tear. But, now, seeing all this, all of the people who are helping . . . I cry every time."

That's all I need to keep it all in perspective.

Until next time,
Brandon