St. Bernard Project at Work in the Midlands to Repair Homes

Mar 14, 2016

Started in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, St. Bernard Project offers low-cost home rebuilding services for people impacted by a natural disaster. That’s good news for a Richland County resident Vernon Kelly and his family.

Blythewood resident Vernon Kelly lives with his wife and granddaughter on land he inherited from his grandparents. Vernon built his house 30 years ago and has paid off the mortgage. During the October floods, his house didn’t flood from the ground up, but strong winds damaged the roof and let rain pour in. South Carolina Public Radio’s Laura Hunsberger has the story.

About St. Bernard Project

St. Bernard Project is a non-profit disaster recovery organization that started in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The program offers low-cost home rebuilding services for clients that meet the following criteria:

1)            They own their home.

2)            They owned it before the disaster.

3)            They have a sustainable plan to remain in community.

4)            They are not able to afford market-rate contractors.

St. Bernard Project, named after the St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, has been working in New Orleans and the surrounding area since 2006 and has rebuilt more than 650 homes so far. They are currently at work in Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersery, the Rockaways in New York, St. Marcos, Texas and Richland and Lexington counties in South Carolina.

The Michael J. Mungo Foundation and United Way of the Midlands were the first funders for the program in South Carolina, providing $200,000 ($100,000 each) to get St. Bernard Project started rebuilding homes. The project relied on volunteer labor to keep the costs of rebuilding down, and they also work to negotiate lower rates with subcontractors for more specialized labor. The volunteer work is supervised by AmeriCorps members, trained workers who have dedicated time (in ten-month terms) to serve in areas of need throughout the United States for a small stipend. Reese May, the National Recovery Director for St. Bernard Project, says “there’s no St. Bernard Project without AmeriCorps.”

St. Bernard Project is a National grantee of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which gives them 140 AmeriCorps allocations to split and use among their operation sites. The United Way Association of South Carolina is also working with St. Bernard Project to bring 30 more AmeriCorps members to South Carolina to work with various volunteer organizations at work rebuilding homes throughout the state. The One SC Fund has granted $240,000 to make this possible. The goal is for St. Bernard’s AmeriCorps team to teach other organizations the St. Bernard Model, including project management with volunteer labor and specialized techniques such as mold remediation, which remains a critical step in the rebuilding process.

For more about St. Bernard Project, visit http://www.stbernardproject.org/columbia-south-carolina.html

For more about AmeriCorps, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps