Building relationships one stitch at a time

11/12/2009 9:31:59 AM

In April 2009, CNA instructor Darlene Spracklin-Reid had the opportunity to bring ten students to Louisiana to help in the effort to rebuild New Orleans. The student volunteers were accompanied by three faculty members, Ridge Road campus administrator John Oates, and two Civil Engineering Technology alumni as part of the international volunteer organization Global Design Students (GDS), who has been partnering with the Broadmoor Development Corporation (BDC) since 2007.

The BDC is the community development branch of the Broadmoor Improvement Association (BIA). Since Hurricane Katrina, the BIA has led community efforts to rebuild the Broadmoor neighbourhood– better than before. To date, the community has repaired over 70 percent of its homes. Challenges persist, but the BIA is committed to revitalizing Broadmoor – and by extension, the City of New Orleans – home-by-home and block-by-block, one resident at a time.

The team arrived well equipped and ready to help rebuild and improve the educational corridor of the Broadmoor neighbourhood which included a school, community centre, playgrounds, and library facilities.

Part of the redevelopment included repairing sidewalks, parking lots and foundations. With several projects underway, Darlene was looking for a special project for the women of her team.

“I was looking for a project for the women in our group to do together. Sometimes our female students don’t feel confident on their skills and I wanted them to have a project of their own to demonstrate their skills to others, but more importantly to themselves,” says Darlene.

Hal Roark, the executive director of the Broadmoor Development Corporation introduced the team to Linda Ireland.

Linda has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig''s disease. She became very ill upon returning to New Orleans after the hurricane. That is when she discovered her sidewalk was severely damaged. The City of New Orleans created a list of sidewalk repairs but Linda’s did not make the list because at the time of inspections her sideway was covered in rubble.

Darlene saw an opportunity to have her team work on this project.

“Linda had accessibility issues which were worsening and she needed the repairs very badly. She also needed a ramp to aid in her access to her property.”

The team of women, consisting of Linda Fitzpatrick, Amanda Dunn, Andrea Reid, and Darlene, replaced Linda’s existing sidewalk with new concrete and also built her a new ramp to assist with her accessibility needs.

The team got to know Linda very well. They learned of her collection of beautiful Mexican dresses. She cherished these beautifully embroidered cotton dresses but they had become old and worn. She explained to the GDS group that the hurricane taught her to let go of material possessions and that she had planned on making pillows for her home out of the dresses, but that her hands were too weak to do so. Linda accepted this and was planning to give the dresses away for someone else to enjoy.

Upon learning this, Darlene asked Linda if she could take the dresses home to Newfoundland. Darlene’s mother is a member of the Ocean View Quilters Guild and the idea was to have her mother make a quilt out of the dresses.

The quilt was made, with College of the North Atlantic’s name embroidered on the back, and was shipped to Linda in New Orleans. She was very pleased to see her dresses made into a beautiful quilt. Darlene and her crew had met a remarkable woman during their time in New Orleans.

“We got to know Linda Ireland well, she’s a lovely woman. She is strong and inspirational. She touched us all.”

Andrea Reid, one of the other ladies involved with the project, was also touched by Linda’s inspiration and thought going to New Orleans was the best experience of her life.

“Linda Ireland is a very special lady and she will always hold a special place in my heart. Helping her was one of the best experiences of my life. I never thought that working for free, for eight hours a day in 35 degree heat would be the highlight of my life. Forever I will cherish Linda, her dresses and the memories created by both.”

The civil engineering project was a success and CNA has left a footprint in New Orleans in more than one way. The team helped reconstruct a vital part of the city; they befriended Linda and helped rebuild not only the damages to her property, but also her treasured belongings for years to come.


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Pam Spencer
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