A few weeks before the Badger men’s basketball team made the trek to New Orleans to play in the NCAA Regional tournament, Flat Bucky headed south to help with a Wisconsin Habitat for Humanity mission.
Bucky joined two dozen volunteers from Kenosha, Wis., for the trip to Slidell, La., including Meta Franklin ’77, who also traveled with Bucky to Pasadena for the 2011 Rose Bowl. Franklin says she wanted to show that “while Badgers party hard, as we did in California, we also work hard to ensure local and global community needs are addressed.”
The March mission trip was Franklin’s fourth since Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the region in 2005. She recalls watching television coverage of the disaster, and being inspired to help the people of New Orleans. In February 2006, volunteers from several congregations packed up and headed to Slidell. “When they got there to find the homes they were to work on, they had to drive in the dark because there was no electricity,” Franklin recalls hearing from friends and neighbors. “They watched as homeowners went through the moldy, muddy, and waterlogged items looking for anything that could be saved. It was very hard work, but they knew we had to come back the next year.”
The Kenosha mission group did return, in 2007 and 2008, to replace damaged drywall and insulation, paint, and repair broken windows in the homes that could still be salvaged.
Then in 2009, the volunteers began working with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate based in St. Tammany parish to build new houses in communities along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where many residents fled in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, resulting in a lack of affordable housing. Since 2005, 87 people from the Kenosha mission group have gone on six trips, and have assisted in constructing a total of 12 new homes.
Franklin says the volunteers were often inspired by the writings of one of her fellow Badgers, author Chris Rose ’82, who wrote a collection of stories about the aftermath of Katrina called “1 Dead in the Attic.”
“At the end of the work days, the group would share chapters from the book.” Franklin explains. “The emotions Chris shared helped the group understand the people and culture of southern Louisiana, and why we needed to keep coming back to help them.”