OVERLAND PARK, Kansas -- For the second time Brian Hague, CEO of an investment firm popular with credit unions, found himself spending some of his vacation days on a job site instead of a beach.
Hague, CEO of CNBS LLC, an investment advisory and analytical firm headquartered in Overland, spent the first week of June helping out homeowners still out of their homes in Kenner, La., a community still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"Kenner really got punched because of human error more or less," Hague explained. Like many communities in south Louisiana, the town relies on a system of pumps to help keep water levels in drainage canals under control. Normally, even in severe storms, the pumps functioned well but are not automated and, during Katrina and Rita, the pump operators were evacuated and the could not get back," Hague said. "So the levels in the canals just kept rising and flooded out the community," he added.
Hague gave credit for the drive and opportunity to make the trip to a men's ministry group as the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leewood, Ka., which he attends. The group has made the one week trip to volunteer along the Gulf Coast the last three years and Hague has made the trip with the group for two of them, he said.
This was the group's first trip to the Kenner. Previous trips were to the Gulf Coast. Hague particularly praised the network of volunteers, many without affiliations to the big relief agencies like Red Cross, which had sprung up to help address the region's ongoing reconstruction needs.
"For example, our work in Kenner was extremely efficient because it was organized and directed, primarily, by two guys who moved their families down to the region after Katrina and Rita to help out," Hague explained. "They both have backgrounds in the construction industry and a lot of leadership skills and patience," Hague said.
For his part, Hague said he had no meaningful construction experience but said the organizers of the volunteer effort had done a good job of pairing up inexperienced volunteers with more experienced one. "Much of the work in rebuilding a house has been repetitive and once you get the hang of it, you can do it again," he added.
He also expressed optimism for the overall region's ability to continue recovery, noting that as he has made the trips there has been steadily greater signs of progress. A number of volunteers this trip, for example, were working on getting the houses where they worked to within a month or less or being ready for occupancy. There are relatively fewer homes still in a state of total disrepair, he noted, where there were more before.
Hague said he plans to keep on volunteering even if, in the future, the group opts for offering its labor at some other disaster site. "Unfortunately, with what's been going on in Iowa and Missouri it looks like we might have plenty of work a lot closer to home in the future," Hague said.