NEW ORLEANS - With a chuckle and grin that could barely be seen under the brim of the newsboy hat pulled down close to his eyes, the bus driver said, "Things could still work out."
His bus was empty. It was news that site supervisors with the St. Bernard Project didn't want to hear. It meant that work to rebuild a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina would not advance as quickly as they anticipated.
Larry Jenkins had a reason to be positive. He's lived in New Orleans his entire life. He's seen The Big Easy at its best. He's also seen The Big Easy at its worst – like when Hurricane Katrina swept through and took the lives of 1,833 people and destroyed more than 200,000 homes in Louisiana.
"You just got to sit back and let things happen," Jenkins said as he attempted to describe "The Big Easy way."
…And, that's what they did – Crews took a break for lunch and hashed out a game plan for making the best of the day. As lunch was ending, saints came marching. A handful of last-minute volunteers from Southern University at New Orleans were delivered to the work site.
A little bit later, a little bit of Charm City found its way to the work site in the form volunteers that made their way to New Orleans from Baltimore to attend the Super Bowl. Sam Skidmore and Sabina Moran showed up in a rental car with their luggage still stacked inside. They said it was a no-brainer.
"Everybody's in a position at some point in their life that they need somebody to help them. It just makes sense to give back," Moran said.
She hopes their work on the home is something that can change the perception of Ravens fans, at least with those people at the job site Thursday. Like it or not, Ravens fans have gotten some marks against them in recent years. One of the most recent incidents – the heckling of NFL replacement referees.
"It's so unfair, Moran said. "I think that every city has that fan."
The arrival of the Baltimore couple and the students from SUNO quickly had an impact. Maybe there was Big Easy mojo in the air as jobs were being completed left and right. It was something that site supervisor Andy Becker had difficulty putting into words. He and other project workers agreed, things rarely go as planned but have a way of working themselves out.
On this day, despite concern, they would end work ahead of schedule. Becker says the satisfaction of knowing you accomplished something positive for another person is what it's all about.
"You can't stop working for them… It brings hope. We come down, we do good work, we work hard, but we bring hope to these people that have basically shut out everything," Becker said. "It's been so long that many of them don't really care anymore."
That's exactly why Skidmore said he had no problem getting involved.
"We go to all the Ravens road games, and a lot of times it's about enjoying the game and maybe the city and the sites and tourism, but here's an opportunity to get a little deeper into the actual community and do something that is not just for your own tourist benefit – something that's going to have an impact on somebody else's life as well."
If you were unable to volunteer or donate time to the St. Bernard Project this week as we have been working with them to raise awareness of the issues still visible in New Orleans, you can find comfort in the fact that there is no closing date on donations. CLICK HERE
"Katrina was so long ago that people think it's over, but it isn't over," Becker says. "You can drive around everywhere and see homes that have been condemned, destroyed or washed away."