Ithaca Spearheads 7th Ward Rebuilding

love-knows-no-bounds-_3.jpgLove Knows No Bounds, the organization created by Catherine Martinez in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as her project in Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program, continues to spearhead the rebuilding of the 7th ward of New Orleans. The organization worked tirelessly towards a sister city partnership between New Orleans and Ithaca, New York, where Martinez lives and Love Knows No Bounds is headquartered, and now that partnership has created momentum for large number of rebuilding projects to move forward. Ithaca residents make trips several times a year to work on rebuilding homes.

In addition to this ongoing work, Love Knows No Bounds has worked to help those affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Some people evacuated twice–They fled from New Orleans to Texas to escape Hurricane Gustav, and fled Texas to escape Hurricane Ike. Many that fled Hurricane Gustav spent the last of their money to stay in hotels, thinking there would be disaster assistance when they returned. Instead, they came back to homes with no power and spoiled food, no money to buy anything and no government assistance.

Love Knows No Bounds hastily raised money to work with Pastor Bruce Davenport and his St. John’s church. Davenport had the foresight to get generators for the church, so he was able to put up many of the evacuees there, and the money raised paid for food and medical supplies.

The organization also worked with the Peaceweavers group to bring 50 people from New Orleans to upstate New York for a weeklong peace and healing retreat. At least half of the attendees were teens and children. The participants in the retreat had the opportunity to get rested and rejuvenated for the challenges they faced back in New Orleans, and learned new community building skills and new tools for healthy living.

Ithaca’s partnership with the 7th ward has gotten many city residents to take action. Many Cornell students are at work on a new sustainable and affordable housing project in the seventh ward. One reformed Jewish temple took on a project to return a couple to their homes. Another New Orleans pastor had his home ravaged by Katrina and has been unable to afford repairs. He has continued his mortgage payments but despaired of being able to return. Thanks to the temple, the home is being rebuilt and will be complete some time this spring.

In the view of Love Knows No Bounds co-director Mike Ellis, the best example of how individual Ithaca community members have gotten behind New Orleans 7th ward comes from the actions of a 12 year old boy. The boy started his own business where he goes door to door and collects people’s recycling, which he takes to the local recycling center for a small fee. In this way, he has raised over $500 for the rebuilding of the 7th ward. This past summer he actually went to New Orleans to help rebuild homes.

“People are getting that it is possible and doable for ordinary people to make a difference,” says Ellis.

News 10 Also Ran a Story about Love Knows No Bounds’ recent work.

Ithaca Shares Love with New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA. — A Sunday morning at St. John’s Number Five Church in New Orleans. Despite their ongoing problems post-Katrina, their faith is strong.

“We’re recuperating on a slow stage, but we are recuperating,” said St. John’s Number Five Church Pastor Bruce Davenport.

Two Love Knows No Bounds volunteers have made another trip to the 7th Ward to continue helping with that process.

“I see some progress, I see people being more hopeful than they have been in the past,” said Love Knows No Bounds Member Karen Ruston.

The relationship between the two groups has been blossoming for more than a year. And last summer Pastor Davenport and other church members made two trips to Upstate New York, first visiting Ithaca, then attending a retreat at the Peaceweaver compound in Bath.

Although services are back on, the church is still dealing with some serious structural issues.

“Our walls are busted open and our roof is busted open and our support is gone, because the buildings been shifted,” said Pastor Davenport.

Just a couple of months ago, the federal government tore down a project housing development right across the street from St. John’s Number Five.

Now, because of that, the church’s congregation has dropped from 300 down to just a couple dozen, but they say it’s because of groups like Love Knows No Bounds that they’re slowly getting people to come back.

“The income of the church has really dropped. We use to have summer camps, now were limited our summer camp, the way we want to do it. We used to have a lot of substance abuse programs, we cut that down. We used to do a lot of outreach, we had to cut that down,” said Pastor Davenport. “ So the help they are giving us, is giving us a chance to regroup right now.”

“I think that there’s just so much love and they’re just so happy to have any support that we can give them,” said Ruston.

Pastor Davenport says the church probably needs to come down, but they’re hoping it will last for a few more years. Pastor Bruce and will be heading back to Peaceweaver compound in Bath for a second visit the first week of August

For more information or to get involved, visit the Love Knows No Bounds website. To read the News 10 story in its original form, go to the News 10 website.

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