Tuesday, August 28, 2007


DAY 28 - Part one: introduction

"If I didn't have faith, where would I be?"
--Mrs. G.

Mrs. G has been a long time community activist. Mrs. G. is 74 year old senior citizen who lives in the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans in an area that suffered heavy flooding and damage. She is one of only 3 residents on her street. The street below her was practically wiped out with a few homes standing. The Desire Housing Projects some of which were once at the bottom of the street that are completely gone.

Mrs. G was a home maintenance counselor in the Desire Projects where she helped the residents get their needs met - especially the elderly. She also had an upholstery business that she started with her mother when she was a young woman, then she and her sister ran the business. Mrs. G eventually sold the business to her sister.

She ran for, but was not elected, for State Representative 2x when she saw that she could not get the help she needed for the elderly and those suffering in the Desire Housing Projects. She laughs and says, "I made a good show, I was unknown." "I really didn't lose cause it gave me more political clout to help people in the community. Because I ran, I knew more of the politicians and when people needed help, I could go to the politicians cause they knew me."

Mrs. G raised 6 children as a single parent after her husband had died. She is an upstanding member of her church and a member of the choir. She can make your heart lurch when she sings a gospel song - her voice holds the depth of her faith and it is an honour to be near her when she suddenly begins singing a gospel song.

I have personally witnessed that Mrs. G continues to give to whomever she can when she can. Even now, when so much has been taken from her in her senior years. (Although I have tried to curb her giving out money to those who come to her door as she is on a fixed Social Security monthly income). Mrs. G has been robbed numerous times. What Price... Hero

The following posting is Mrs. G's rebuilding story of the work that was done for her by a contractor called Rebuild Green who is a part of a grass roots community non-profit called Common Ground.

This is what was written in Mrs. G's contract from Rebuild Green:

“…Rebuild Green recognizes the tremendous contributions and possibilities that M_ G_ has as a leader for an Upper 9th Ward community which urgently needs the kind of vigorous, compassionate engagement she can offer. We remain hopeful that we can fulfill our intention of making this house a fine base for her life and work.”

--Don Paul
President of Rebuild Green in the Common Ground Community Development Corporation.

From the Rebuild Green web-site does the following sound familiar:

The lots are owned by Margaret Doyle-Johnston, a longtime activist in her Upper 9th Ward community…


The following is my personal opinion:


Dedicated to Mrs. G and the thousands of elderly and “just folks” who have had hundreds of thousands stolen from them collectively from the unscrupulous contractors and builders who have stolen from the poor and the unsuspecting or just plain did not know what they were doing and took money for incompetent work.

I will admit it from the beginning of this posting. I am emotionally involved in this.

First because I am proud to be “green”. Perhaps not a full fledged, card carrying member - I try to live by green principles - because I care about my planetary brothers and sisters and our Sacred Mother earth.

Secondly, I believe when you identify yourself as “green” you are saying in essence, that you consciously try to live by principles that integrate caring about the planetary community through conscious business practices that bring back the humanity into capitalism as well as stating that you are a human being trying to live by “fair and just” dealings in business and in your life. I think as a “green” I am called to walk my talk. To me, that’s what makes being “green” different - we are daily, trying to live to a higher planetary community standard.

Thirdly, and actually most importantly - nothing gets me angrier and disrupts my ability to stay centered and contained, than people who say "they" come in the name of “righteousness” and then seem to take advantage of the poor, the elderly, the homeless, the disadvantaged (mentally and emotionally), the na├»ve and children. I believe that “we who claim to live by higher standards morally and ethically are required by our hearts and consciousness to be that truth to the best of our abilities”.

This particular blog posting has to do with a widow, 74 years of age who had work done by “Rebuild Green” a Common Ground Community Development Corporation.

Not to be confused with the community work being done by Brad Pitt
and Global Green (founded by Mikhail Gorbachev).

The photo's in the following blog posting speaks volumes. Some of them were taken by a well meaning volunteer from Common Ground. Thank you who ever you were for standing by this senior citizen.

Mrs. G agreed to have Rebuild Green and later Sterling Contractors do repair work for her.

Both Contractors “promised” her they would complete her home so that she could move out of her FEMA trailer, which for months she has been telling me is making her feel sick. Neither contractors followed through. Mrs. G has given me copies of the contracts and her permission to share what was on them on this posting.

(Note: I will tell you right now, Mrs. G isn’t easy to work for, she can be demanding, restless, and after what has happened to her, she has difficulty trusting people (consider how many times she has been robbed since I met her, it is understandable and difficult to be around.). As a result of the stress of what she has been through and continues to go through, constant reassurance and proof of honesty is needed. I have personally observed Mrs. G has what I feel is a 'bad habit' of interrupting workers when someone is working on a project for her. I feel it is as if the sudden influx of capable help seems to send her into wanting as much as she can get done - done immediately - often a different project than what the worker was doing. I have found that if the worker does not let her know she is doing this, they will find out that they can’t get what they started finished - you can find yourself going in circles with well intentionedness with this senior citizen who has been so badly abused since Katrina and the levee breaks. She can also be temperamental, but it you let her know what is what and set good boundaries, you can get your job done and move on and get along just fine with her. Actually she will crack you up.

(Note: Ironically, it was Stu, Sarah and Nate - who were with Plenty International at the time, whom were so different in personality from Mrs. G - three gentle tree hugging hippies, who treated her with sincere kindness and gentleness. They showed her respect, they took care of the things she felt really needed to be done - like securing her house from people breaking in and sleeping in the abandoned side of the shotgun by putting on doorknobs with locks, putting on secure doors and boarding up other un-secure doors until Mrs. G can afford new ones.) No doubt about it, Mrs. G is a mixture of toughness, kindness and incredible faith in God and Jesus; she will have you laughing in an instant and can drive you crazy in the next, with seemingly unreasonable demands). And after her neighborhood was flooded and she was left with a double shotgun house that had 7 feet of water in it - she had no idea at 74 and a widow on her own, how to rebuild.

I have shared so much about Mrs. G’s personality because I want to be fair in case a claim is made that it was her "personality traits" that kept either Rebuild Green or Sterling Contractors from completing their contractual agreement - because Mrs. G kept hers and paid them what they asked for. Characteristics of her personality is no reason for a contractor to forfeit on a contracting agreement and leave her with an unfinished home after taking her money. Two contractors have done this to Mrs. G. and in my opinion it is just plain wrong.

Common Ground had set up in the shelter and rebuilding community down the street from Mrs. G's house. At first she thought they were a Godsend. There were people up the street from her nearly abandoned street. It gave her a feeling of safety. And she and jazz her little white poodle, loved going up and spending time talking with the volunteers. In the early days until this summer, Common Ground fed the poor and the elderly in the neighborhood, then they stopped - event though I saw and felt that the need was still there. Common Ground also became the place for Mrs. Gaines where most of the thieves and robbers came from as Common Ground was trying to help ex-cons get a break and teach them new skills. Unfortunately for Mrs. Gaines 3 of the residents robbed her. She took in 2 of them who had worked on her home with Rebuild Green later when these same men were thrown out, Mrs. G took them in, they thanked her "by stealing the ring from her late husband off of her finger in her sleep." Another would come by borrow money, call her "Grandma Gaines" and rob her of money. The same person was later caught selling her 38 pistol she uses at night or safety after robbing her home. Her tools were stolen out of her shed. No, in Mrs. Gaines case this good deed went bad.

Mrs. Gaines tells me that it was through Common Ground that she was introduced to Don Paul who is the Chief of Operations of Common Ground, a New Orleans based non-profit Rebuild Green.


Mrs. G continues as of this posting to live in a FEMA trailer in front of her unfinished home.

I am not a carpenter nor a builder but I know shoddy work when I see it.

As per Mrs. G - When Mrs. G complained of the unfinished work and that she felt Don Paul of Rebuild Green whom Malik Rahim had introduced her to, had taken her money and didn't finish the work, she said that Malik Rahim of Invest Construction ...a company started by Malik Rahim, co-founder of the Common Ground Collective, she told me that Malik told her in response, "we didn't charge you enough." (see contract agreement in following posting)

Mrs. Green told me "It wasn't my fault, I didn't make the price*. I ended up paying him close to $22,000* and I am still sitting in this trailer." "Malik" she tells me, "came one day to work on the house, then he never came back, the next day he sent some young people over from Common Ground, then they never came back."

* See contract posting.

Mrs. G told me that she was told by Don Paul of Rebuild Green and Malik Rahim of Common Ground that her house was going to be the “showcase” house for the efforts of Common Ground and Rebuild Green in the 9th Ward.

"Welcome Home - the front door"

From the Rebuild Green Website:

"...All of these home-owners are elderly or middle-aged and eleven are women. All are African-American and all are long-time residents of New Orleans. All, too, report the same story in terms of difficulty in accessing the funds they need to begin or complete work on their homes. "

"...We're already doing some part of all the above tasks. With the help of donors such as yourself, we've begun to make material progress. Clearer and clearer to us, however, is the reality that we have a lot more to do and that good changes can only come through independent, uncompromised, non-exploitative means.

Has Rebuild Green and Common Ground lived up to their word or is it just political rhetoric?

Read on and decide or yourself:

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