74-year-old got help, chipped in
When volunteers came to fix the roof of Ernestine Showers’ house in Hahnville, they found the 74-year-old woman already wielding a hammer to help.
Showers expressed gratitude for the assistance, but kept a firm grip on her hammer.
“She’s just such a faith-filled lady who believed God would send people to help her,” said Courtney Saucier, housing rehabilitation specialist with St. Charles Parish Community Services.
And those people came at the right time because Showers’ faith had been tested mightily.
Saucier coordinated the effort nearly two years to bring volunteers there, as well as routed the resources necessary to make the project happen. Community Services confirmed the dire need to repair the house.
Volunteers helped make the project possible, which was overseen by Community Services part-time carpenter I.V. McKinney.
Grace Point Church in Ormond did the roof work in March. They were followed by a second group of volunteers who came in June with Catholic Heart Work Camp, a group with locations throughout the world.
They came with more than 200 young people who worked at locations in the New Orleans area and slept on sleeping bags and air mattresses on the floor at St. Clement of Rome Church in Metairie.
They have come every year for at least the last four years and pay their own expenses for the trip.
“They’re so excited about being here,” Saucier said. “They work four days week and on Friday go to New Orleans to have fun. It’s a wonderful program.”
Collectively, they tackled the challenging work of upgrading the roof so interior improvements could be done on a house that Showers has lived in nearly 30 years.
Showers benefitted from Community Services’ Housing Rehab program that includes emergency house and safety assistance. There is a waiting list for this program.
Community Services also gets assistance from HUD that helps bring a house to building code, which averages three to five houses a year in the parish. It also refers qualifying homeowners to the USDA Rural Development Program, which can provide a loan or grant to upgrade a house.
Throughout the work, Saucier said Showers was “sweet and helpful,” epitomizing why the Community Services’ programs exists.
Being home is important to Showers, particularly after she lost her husband about nine years ago and her daughter last year in a highway accident.
But, throughout her trials, she is known for helping where she can.
“It was in such disrepair,” Saucier said of the residence. “The ceilings were falling down, the insulation was all exposed … there was mold and everything. It was not a good situation.”
Showers agreed, telling Saucier if she got help to fix the roof she’d do the inside upgrades.
Instead, Saucier told her, “No, Ms. Showers, we have some volunteers.”
The residence had started as a single trailer and then expanded to a double wide and then Showers added to it until the location more resembled a house, Saucier said. More additions followed, which were done by Showers to help care for three foster children.
She took them in, even after having six children of her own.Saucier recounted, “She said if it wasn’t for God, she doesn’t know where she would be.”
Showers was sure that God answered her prayers, and was so appreciative of the help that she cooked a meal for the volunteers.
Saucier said the volunteers told her that Showers inspired them and that they felt better for having known her.
“She is so grateful and it’s contagious,” she said. “She is very positive and you can tell that she has faith in God and she never gives up.