It has been years since news of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina passed from page one to section two to the occasional retrospective documentary. The work of rebuilding, however, is still very much on the minds of the people of New Orleans.

It has been years since news of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina passed from page one to section two to the occasional retrospective documentary. The work of rebuilding, however, is still very much on the minds of the people of New Orleans. The French Quarter and most of downtown New Orleans is back and better than ever. As you move away from the river toward the lake, however, lingering signs of the storm’s destruction become more and more evident.

A day before the official kickoff of the 2010 International Roofing Expo (IRE), held in New Orleans, attendees were invited to help out with some of the ongoing recovery effort. An estimated 75 people took part in Community Service Day in a collaborative effort between the IRE, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), and the New Orleans chapter of Rebuilding Together. 

Volunteers, who included roofing contractors, roofing manufacturers, distributors, general contractors, project managers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, masons, plasterers/drywallers, HVAC contractors, and tile setters, were bused to the Hollygrove area of New Orleans’ 17th Ward. These volunteers were joined by a number of “regular” volunteers from the New Orleans area as well as members of Americorps who work directly with Rebuilding Together.

A number of the principals from the NRCA and IRE joined in the workday. Those in attendance included NRCA President Rob McNamara, NRCA Senior Vice-President Allen Lancaster, and NRCA Executive Vice-President Bill Good. Donna Bellantone, Director of the IRE for show producer Hanley Wood Exhibitions, also contributed some “sweat equity” and was interviewed by the local media along with Daniela Rivero, executive director of Rebuilding Together New Orleans. Brandi McElhaney, who manages the educational content of the IRE, organized the volunteers. 

Travis Dix of Cobra Roofing in Spokane, Wash. (left), and Scott Wilson of Sutter Roofing in Bradenton, Fla., joined forces to fashion a small but complex repair on a flat section of the roof. (Photos by Rick Damato.)

A significant financial donation for the Community Service Day was provided by Sika Sarnafil, the event’s sponsor. Not only were they the event’s top sponsor, but Sika Sarnafil offered expertise to Sunday’s renovations. The company offers roofing and waterproofing systems that are recognized for exemplifying the highest standards of quality, reliability and watertight protection. Bradco Supply furnished roofing and tools to Rebuilding Together New Orleans as part of their national commitment to the non-profit that works through local affiliates to rebuild homes for the needy.

Other product sponsors of Community Service Day included CertainTeed and Mid-States Asphalt. The Ellis Company, commercial roofing, sheet metal and waterproofing company in Kenner, La., conducted roof work. Po’ Boys, a New Orleans favorite, were served for lunch sponsored by OMG Roofing Products.

Hanley Wood’s Brandi McElhaney checks in Community Service Day volunteers.

Scope of Work

The scope of work on Sunday provided by IRE and Rebuilding Together volunteers included repairing leaking flat roofs on two homes, attaching hurricane straps, removing old wiring and plumbing, lots of painting, repairing a brick planter box, reworking aluminum siding, lots of demolition, replacing rotten wood, and installing reflective barriers. The entire shingle roof was replaced on one of the homes as part of the project, but the work was completed by professional roofers prior to the workday.

Key sponsors of Community Service Day were Bradco Supply and Sika Sarnafil. Brian Whelan and Joe Schwetz of Sika Sarnafil are shown here along with Allen Lancaster, president of Metalcrafts Inc. and Senior Vice President of NRCA.

A group of volunteers spent the day at the home of Mabel Thomas, 83, whose brick home in the Hollygrove section required extensive work. Thomas, a native of Napoleonville, La., and a retired schoolteacher, has resided in New Orleans for more than 50 years. Her family had the home built in 1956 and Ms. Thomas resided there until the home was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Like many New Orleans residents, the overwhelming repair expense could not be handled with her limited resources. Living out of New Orleans with relatives since the disaster, Thomas finally decided to rebuild last year and return to New Orleans. She was introduced to the Rebuilding Together program in April and her home will be made livable again soon.

The NRCA’s Rob McNamara and his wife, Kate, both worked on Thomas’ home on Sunday. Kate worked to prepare a brick planter for replacement (scraping mortar off the bricks that will be used to rebuild it) and Rob worked with Bruce McCrory to remove an aged (and very heavy) HVAC unit from the attic.

Also, the small flat roof on Thomas’ home was repaired by a pair of roofing professionals from both sides of the country. Travis Dix, Business Development Manager for Cobra Roofing in Spokane, Wash., was joined by Scott Wilson, Operations Manager for Sutter Roofing in Bradenton, Fla. This roofing crew, formed first thing in the morning, was but one example of the kind of cooperation that moved all five of these rebuilding projects forward quite a ways after only one day of work.

Rob McNamara and Bruce McCrory teamed up to remove a damaged HVAC unit that had been in the attic since the 1950s.

A New Twist

The IRE has been produced by Hanley Wood Exhibitions since it acquired the show from the NRCA. The event is sponsored by NRCA, which holds its annual convention and meeting concurrently with the event. Organizers of the workday cited IRE, Rebuilding Together and NRCA’s Community Service and Disaster Relief Fund Committee for partnering on Sunday’s special project. NRCA formed a partnership with Rebuilding Together years ago, and NRCA Executive Vice President Bill Good sits on their national board of directors. When Hanley Wood initiated the concept of a community service day before the IRE, the partnership with Rebuilding Together was a natural.

Donations are still needed in the form of money, as well as products and materials to help with the ongoing renovations. Manufacturers donating products and materials will be able to ship directly to the Rebuilding Together warehouse in New Orleans. For more information on how and what to donate for the Katrina rebuilding effort, contact Janet Larue, Rebuilding Together, Warehouse/Supply Manager, at 504-388-0183 or jlarue@rtno.

Rebuilding Together has affiliates nationwide, so contractors and individuals may become involved locally. To find the affiliate in your area go online to or call 800-473-4229.