Today, I took advantage of an opportunity presented by Microsoft. About 120-150 people who are attending the Microsoft Dynamics conference volunteered to do community outreach in the Gentilly neighborhood.
During Katrina, the neighborhood was 8-10 feet underwater, and the the area didn't drain for four weeks. Many of the old houses were completely ruined, and many more needed tons of repairs. Many of the old magnolia trees in the medians also died at this time.
A local pastor and a local organizer have been bringing in groups to help rebuild. It's been 8 years and a lot of houses are repaired and look nice. I saw at least 12 that now sported solar panels. However, many more still have caved in roofs or boarded up windows. There's still a lot to be done.
Our group framed up 3 houses, made 500 yards of fencing for a nearby playground, landscaped 5 homes, worked on the community center's gym, and planted 190 trees. I was only there a half day, and assigned to help plant trees. I planted probably 5 trees with my team, but over all our group planted 90 in two and a half hours. It was pretty impressive, and the organizers were very pleased.
I think, next time I take a vacation, I'll make sure it has a community outreach component.