This week I learned that a crowbar and a hammer go a long way.
In fact, these tools can break down a standing house into a pile of sheetrock, wood, nails, mold, and other various materials.
When a natural disaster hits a community in the U.S., many volunteer groups collaborate with the government to quickly assess the need of the affected area.
One of the newest volunteer groups that is joining the relief effort is the Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC), an organization founded by recent college grad, Elie Lowenfeld. With its t-shirts fresh off the presses, JDRC is partnering with other organizations in the field to learn from their experience and to build its volunteer base.
Nechama (Hebrew for “comfort”) is one of these organizations. Equipped with a trailer full of tools and gadgets, Nechama is leading relief groups in organizing, assessing, understanding, and finally addressing the demolition process after a natural disaster.
Most recently, JDRC and Nechama have been spotted pulling sheetrock and water tanks from homes affected by extensive flooding in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area. I had the opportunity to get my hands dirty and learn the harsh reality of the damage that 3 feet of standing water can do to a house.
Floating furniture, soaked photo albums, and children wading in water up to their shoulders, was the reality for members of the Nashville community in early May 2010. As water crested streams and creeks at 15-20 feet, many neighborhoods saw their usual water sources overstep their natural boundaries, turning their streets, yards, and houses into flowing rivers.
Unfortunately, time does not erase the consequences (mold) that form from wet wood and wet sheetrock. It must be removed.
Enter the JDRC and Nechama’s awesome tool truck.
Enter the crowbar and hammer.
With the help of some good souls from around the country (including Americorps and the Muslim disaster relief group), JDRC was able to gut 4.5 houses in the 3.5 days I was with the group.
They have taken the overwhelming task of emptying and gutting a house (some lived in for 40+ years) and have methodically instituted a type of checklist to eradicate the mold buildup from flooding. While the work may be physically draining, the homeowner’s will and strength is at times overwhelming.
Watching her once cherished possessions rest in a now large garbage pile, one homeowner explained that it is in this place, this home, that she is at peace.
That pile of stuff, she said, is replaceable.
That’s the message Nashville left me and that’s the hope the JDRC is bringing to victims of natural disasters.
Thanks Elie for an incredibly productive and exhausting tour with JDRC!
Please visit jewishdisasterresponsecorps.org for more information.
(JDRC is “mobilizing American Jewish communities to lend skilled hands to assist American communities recover from natural disasters.”)