May marks the nine-month point since Hurricane Katrina made its devastating impact on the Gulf Coast, its people, and their communities. The storm has had a massive effect on the region's economy and impacted more than 90,000 square miles—roughly the size of Great Britain. The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that the commercial infrastructure suffered great amounts of damage, with ports—which account for one-quarter of all U.S. import and export activity—needing significant repair after the devastation.
Statistics shared by relief agencies have been startling. More than 1.5 million people have been directly impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Coast Guard rescued 33,000 people, more than 700,000 households received apartment rental assistance, and 180,000 damaged roofs have been covered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under its “Blue Roof” program. The footage shown on television can't possibly depict all the suffering people of the Gulf Coast have had to endure.
The outpouring of support from charities, churches, and everyday citizens has been phenomenal. People just wanting to lend a hand have contributed their time and their resources to do what they can to provide assistance to those displaced by the storms.
Over the past several months, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association's (NLBMDA) office has received numerous phone calls from dealers wanting to make a contribution or connect with an organization through which they could help. It has been humbling to hear of people from this industry contributing their talents to improve others' lives. Stories abound of dealers and their families who have traveled to the Gulf Coast to repair roofs, tear out moldy drywall, remove debris, or just help serve meals to volunteers.
Pure to this industry's entrepreneurial spirit, dealers and their employees have seen images of hurricane victims and felt a desire to be a part of the rebuilding efforts. One perfect example of this spirit of unity is the new organization From Builders For Rebuilders. Created by Margaret Price Sims and Mike Sonderman from Ridgefield Supply Co. in Ridgefield, Conn., this nonprofit's purpose is to collect new and used hand, power, and long-handle tools from dealers, builders, and contractors and distribute them to individuals rebuilding homes destroyed by the hurricanes. By doing this, homeowners, tradesmen, and volunteers will have the tools they need to cut, plaster, cement, patch, and hammer those damaged homes and accomplish the task at hand.
Sims and Sonderman have developed a comprehensive action plan and began shipping tools as this article was being written in early spring. Working through lumber dealers in the impacted area, the tools will be distributed to only those individuals helping with the rebuilding effort. To learn more about this campaign and ways you can participate, go to www.frombuildersforrebuilders.com for more information.
This industry is blessed with people who give more than they receive. From Builders For Rebuilders is a prime example of what can be accomplished by individuals who care enough to want to make a difference in people's lives.