Repairing homes that were devastated as a result of Hurricane Sandy will not be an easy feat. Just ask those New Orleans residents who suffered through Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
After more than seven years, the problems for New Orleans residents who lost their homes during those two natural disasters still linger as properties are still being renovated in order to stabilize communities as well as comply with local code enforcement rules.
At the recent National Association of Mortgage Field Services conference that took place in the Crescent City, over 150 business executives from various property preservation companies across the country volunteered to help restore three homes and a local playground that still needed more improvements after obtaining severe damage from the hurricanes.
“Everyone who participated was overwhelming positive that this was a great thing to do,” Eric Miller, executive president of NAMFS, told Mortgage Servicing News in an interview. “So much of what our industry is known for is the bad stuff. But this was good and brought a sense of accomplishment to all the volunteers.”
The rebuilding volunteer event was organized by NAMFS in conjunction with Rebuilding Together New Orleans. Rebuilding Together is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing assistance to elderly, disabled, or distressed homeowners.
Miller said one of the reasons why NAMFS decided to work with Rebuilding Together is because they help homeowners who suffer from hardship rather than just make improvements to a vacant property that nobody appreciates.
In only four hours, the volunteers were able to accomplish many tasks to help revitalize a local community. For this project, the initial cleanup was completed, Miller said. He noted that the volunteers cleared out lots of trees and brush that were onsite at the homes as well as painted handrails and worked on support systems inside the properties.
“After seeing the people who came back with very little repairs done to their homes, we were able to quickly provide a big improvement in the three homes that were fixed up,” said Adam Miles, vice president of the National Association of Mortgage Field Services and CEO of San Diego-based Miles Preservation. “This was a great opportunity to help in a time of need to maintain values for these communities for their distressed properties.”
At the park, a creek, which basically turned into a trash refuse that contained 75 to 80 tires and six shopping carts, was cleaned out. Also, a bridge that leads from the street into the park was graded with stone for pedestrians to safely enter the facility.
The National Football League will continue to upgrade this facility by installing a basketball court, building a picnic area and mounting new playground equipment, Miller said.
Overall, two 30-yard dumpsters were filled with garbage and debris during the one-day volunteer session.
“For NAMFS to take time from a busy conference schedule to serve our homeowners shows their commitment to giving back to those in need,” Jon Svarka, executive director of Rebuilding Together New Orleans told this publication in a written statement. “In just a few hours, three homeowners were assisted with home repairs and a playground that was overgrown and unsafe received a welcome transformation. It’s always amazing to see what can be accomplished when hard working individuals come together to serve.”
Tim Rath, director of property preservation at Safeguard Properties, called the volunteer effort the most “unique” aspect of the conference. Rath helped fix a 40-year New Orleans resident’s property that flooded after Katrina, which forced the homeowner to evacuate her damaged home for two months after the storm.
Working as a cohesive group, the volunteers wiped down the house, primed it, and then painted it in a short period of time.
“It was nice to work along the vendors and alongside with people you typically don’t get to work and talk with in that level. It was a rewarding experience for us as well just to see her and how warm she was inviting us in,” Rath said about the volunteer effort.
“Being in the industry that we are in, doing some of this volunteer work, especially when the person you are helping is there on site, really just helps to bring what you do to a very personal level,” Rath continued. “We all get caught in just thinking of these places as properties and just thinking of them as tasks and work orders that we need to do, but when you get out in front of somebody in that situation, you get to put a face with the whole mortgage crisis in the U.S. You really get a good personal interaction and a good feeling from being out there and meeting people face-to-face.”