It feels like just yesterday when I stood on soil completely destroyed by the massive tornados that struck Birmingham, Alabama on April 27, 2011. Two weeks ago, over MLK holiday weekend a group of 22 young professionals were led by Washington Hebrew Congregation’s, Rabbi Aaron Miller and Stacey Black to rebuild houses with 2239’s new initiative called ARK (Acts of Religious Kindness). ARK is a program for 20s and 30s to embark on organized service trips all over the country and to do some local Tikkun Olam (Hebrew for “repairing the world”) in the DC area.
The Alabama tornado took the lives of 238 individuals just over nine months ago. Our group was stationed in Pratt City, Alabama in Jefferson County where nearly all houses are piles of rubble in what is now a suburban wasteland. Other than a few streets where new construction is beginning, the remainder of the area is entirely desolate.
Development appears to be very slow. Numerous plots of land lie abandoned, waiting for a dumpster pick-up and for builders to purchase the valueless land. It costs around $80,000 to clear a damaged property, which is far more than the land is actually worth
We spent two days helping rebuild the home of Ms. Evelyn Lewis, which had devastating damage following the tornado. Rabbi Aaron Miller reflected on his experience, “ARK was life-changing, both for Evelyn Lewis, whose house we helped to rebuild, and for our 22 volunteers who flew down to Birmingham, AL to help. We roofed Evelyn’s house, gutted her kitchen, installed doors and windows, ventilated the attic, sanded, painted and completed countless other restoration projects. We helped to create a better world, and I think in the process we all became better Jews.”
As you can see from the below photos, the home is nearing completion and when rebuilt Ms. Evelyn Lewis will live with her son and three year old grandson. However, the floors in the house have sustained large amounts of water damage as a result of the storm. All work is being done by volunteer labors on a limited budget and they anticipate the repair of the floor to cost $2,500. Our group has committed to helping complete the house not just by offering our time, by committing to raise the funds needed to finish this final project.
Jennifer Nannes, the chair of Washington Hebrew Congregation’s group 2239 said, “In the true spirit of Tikkun Olam, this experience made us cognizant of the devastating damage that still exists in the Birmingham community. As a group, we pledged to raise money to fund further efforts to help rebuild their community.”
We launched a campaign to raise $2,500 to repair the floor. We need YOU to join us in helping ensure that her grandson can grow up in a safe home. A gift of $18 would make a world of difference in helping us hit our goal to complete the home.
PLEASE MAKE A DONATION BY CLICKING HERE.
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