Apr 152008
Authors: Johnny Hart

When Jessica Vrettos and Shannon Farrell graduated from Colorado State in 2001 the levies had yet to break, FEMA was nowhere near New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina had not yet devastated states along the Gulf Coast.

The Category Three hurricane hit in 2005, leaving in its wake streets flooded, communities destroyed, over a thousand dead, and hundreds of thousands homeless.

So when Vrettos and Farrell gutted a New Orleans man’s house in February 2007, they vowed to help rebuild New Orleans one home at a time. Vrettos and Farrell, CSU graduates in occupational therapy and natural resources management respectively, created the One More Home New Orleans initiative to raise money for New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to build one home.

“The people we met in New Orleans are dedicated to their city, committed to returning to their lives, and determined to rebuild their community,” Farrell said in a press release.

In addition to the amount needed to build a house in New Orleans, $85,000, One More Home New Orleans will donate an additional 10 percent to Colorado Habitat for Humanity, bringing the total goal to $93,500.

“I grew up in Colorado,” Farrell said in the press release. “I love my state and want to give back at home as well.”

At first, the amount of devastation that still lingered in New Orleans shocked Farrell and Vrettos.

“We realized after we were there for a while what we were seeing,” Vrettos said. “There would be a house with a huge pile of junk out in their front yard. What we finally realized is that those are houses getting gutted.”

The devastation and the time which had passed hit close to home. When driving down through the streets, Farrell said, they could see broken windows and electrical cords hanging from ceilings.

“It was like two years after the storm,” Farrell said. “You’re driving down strips, almost like driving down College, except every single store was torn to s***.”

Their flagship event to raise the bulk of the money is a walk across Colorado set to start May 1.

“We are hoping that the end product of our work is not only a house but also an experience uniting communities, people, and spirit,” Vrettos said in the press release.

Farrell said they hope to raise awareness on the 300 mile walk by hitting the large communities along the I-25 corridor.

Farrell and Vrettos hope to kick off the walk positively with a benefit dinner Monday hosted by Fish Restaurant in Fort Collins.

Vrettos said they will to try to maximize their efforts on this walk, but have other events planned throughout the summer.

“We will reach (our goal) because we’re just going to keep (trying) until we do it,” she said.

Information about attending Monday’s benefit dinner and other planned events see www.onemorehomeneworleans.com or contact Jessica Vrettos at 970-219-2997.

Staff writer Johnny Hart can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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