Saint Joe Serves New Orleans


March 14- Mallory Minana ’22 using a sledge hammer to demolish an old, unused kitchen table

Frankie Schuman, Senior Staff Writer

This year, after taking pause due to the COVID – 19 Pandemic, St. Joe students were able to resume its annual alternative spring break service trip. This year, 24 students and volunteers travelled to New Orleans to help in the aftermath of hurricane damage.

Junior Frankie Schuman volunteered her time and hard work to serve the dear neighbor without distinction. Each day, she kept a diary to log her service, and experiences on the trip. 


Day 1: Monday, March 14

Today was spent serving alongside members from HandsOn New Orleans. All 24 volunteers worked on improvements to a community center in Plaquemines parish. Citizens of this area suffered great damages after Hurricane Ida, and a new community center will be used heavily, and available to all community members. The building was previously used as a home, so today was used predominantly as a demolition day.

Specific Tasks: Destroy and remove cabinets from the kitchen, move all heavy appliances to the street for trash pick-up, scrape all tiles from the floor, remove ceiling panels, and remove unnecessary ceiling structures. 

Tools Used: hammer, crowbar, reciprocating saw, sledge hammer, wire shear

Sophomore Lucy Broun was a part of the tile-removing group for most of the day.

“While it wasn’t great for my back, the ceramic was actually really satisfying to chip away,” Lucy said. 

Dinner tonight was at St. Roch Market, which is a compilation of developing restaurants within a single building, and all volunteers were thrilled to try new foods from a variety of cultures. 


Day 2: Tuesday, March 15

Today was also spent back at the community center. Yesterday, we finished with all demolition and removal of ceiling and floor tiles, so we got to paint the walls today! Before we could begin using the paintbrushes, we had to prepare the walls for the layers of paint.

Specific Tasks: Sand every wall and window sill, wipe down the same locations that were sanded, and apply two layers of paint primer. 

Tools Used: sand paper, paint brush, paint roller, painters tape, plastic sheet

The day ended with paint covering nearly all pieces of clothing, along with the hands, arms, and legs of the volunteers. However, the use of a paintbrush was a relief to our sore bodies from the day before. And of course, all of us were thrilled to spend another day with the fun leaders from HandsOn New Orleans. 

Senior Cate Van Luven enjoyed this day the most. 

“Painting was just relaxing. It was super easy, and it was nice to hang out with everyone while we did it,” Cate said. 

Dinner was made back at Aurora Methodist Church, where we are staying for the week, so everyone was able to relax for the rest of the night.


Day 3: Wednesday, March 16

Today was our exploring day! All volunteers started the day at Cafe Du Monde, which is an Italian bakery that serves coffee and beignets. New Orleans is known for its doughy and powdery beignets; so of course, we had to get some. 

Afterward, everyone attended a tour of the lower ninth ward, which is the location that was hit the hardest in both Katrina and Ida. The majority of its residents are living below the poverty line, and the government has taken few actions to protect these people. The tour educated all of us on the true consequences of these natural disasters. 

Finally, we all went to the French Quarter. These blocks in the city are filled with artists, musicians, and chefs. The streets were lined with galleries and restaurants, and we were given a few hours to roam on our own. Many volunteers returned back with pieces of art and unique T-shirts. The day overall was an amazing success.


Day 4: Thursday, March 17

Today was another workday, and it was spent in two different locations. One group of volunteers went to the Saint John parish, which is a town in Cancer Alley. This strip of land is surrounded by more than 100 chemical-producing facilities and factories, meaning that the air quality is unlivable. Citizens within this border are 2x more likely to die from cancer than anywhere else in the United States.

The other group of volunteers began work with Louisiana Just Recovery Network (LJRN). The group was assisting a woman and her home, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ida in August of last year. 

Specific Tasks: group 1- distribute food and cleaning supplies to citizens within the Saint John parish: group 2 – remove nails and repair walls for future reconstruction.

Group 1 also had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Geraldine Watkins, who has lived in Cancer Alley for 60 years. She told stories about how she watched the landscape change, and about what the air pollution is doing to their bodies on a daily basis. 

Senior Jenny Niehaus was a member of this group and specifically loved listening to Ms. Watkins’s story. 

“It was interesting to hear the statistics about the air chemicals, and about just how many changes this air pollution has had on her life,” Drew said.

After the completion of these two tasks, the two groups met up to care for the lawn of another citizen impacted by the hurricane. Her yard had been overgrown and destroyed, and her age-restricted her from making the changes herself. 

With the closing of the day and the appearance of many sunburns, the volunteers finally returned back to the church. Dinner was prepared in our kitchen, and the rest of the night passed by seamlessly. 


Day 5: Friday, March 18

Our last day in New Orleans was spent as another day of service. Working again with LJRN, our group was able to perform a variety of tasks at Broadmoor church.

Specific Tasks: paint/label volunteer tools for use on future work sights, distribute/organize/prepare more bags of food and cleaning supplies to be delivered by future volunteer groups.

Tools: spray paint (plus the cleaning supplies used back at the church ☺)

After a quick ice cream stop, our group returned to our temporary home for a few showers. We attended a fish fry for dinner at a church in the neighborhood, where we were given free ice cream by the staff there.

The rest of the night was used to clean our bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen. And of course, there was a lot of packing and willing our suitcases to zip closed. The night ended fairly early, as we had to prepare for the 12-hour drive ahead of us.


The trip overall was a huge success. There were a lot of changes in our volunteer plans throughout the week, meaning that flexibility was crucial to the week. But in the end, everything ended up fitting together perfectly. There was a lot of serving our neighbors, and a lot of relationships built in the process. Despite the chaos of the week, the trip was well worth the twelve-hour drive, and our volunteers agree that they wouldn’t trade their experience for anything.