If I had a hammer: nuns helping rebuild New Orleans

How cool is this? An inspiring story of sisters who are in the habit (heh) of rebuilding homes.

Details:

Sister Paula Gonzalez — dressed in sweats and sneakers — was directing a fellow nun to the ceiling of a closet — the last area in need of insulation before the group begins hanging drywall in a house that has stood empty since Hurricane Katrina flooded it.

“We’re all glad to be done with that nasty stuff,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone has been itching for days.”

Gonzalez, 78, of Cincinnati, is one of 86 nuns from various Roman Catholic orders around the United States and Canada who took part in the latest edition of Nuns Build. The program, begun in 2009, brings nuns to New Orleans twice a year to help rebuild houses flooded by Katrina in 2005, but are structurally sound and can be renovated.

There are still thousands of the houses in the metropolitan area. Many were owned by elderly or poor people without flood insurance and left with no means of reclaiming their homes.

The nuns worked with the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit disaster recovery organization dedicated to rebuilding homes destroyed by Katrina.

The nuns have been part more than 23,000 volunteers have helped St. Bernard Project rebuild 319 families’ homes. Money for the supplies is raised through donations.

In the latest effort, the nuns worked on 17 houses — swinging hammers, working saws, insulating, hanging drywall, painting, putting in flooring and installing doors and windows.

“We do it all,” laughed Sister Winnie Brubach, 64, of Cincinnati, as she taped insulation into a closet ceiling. “We just showed up and started in on what they told us to do.”

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