I visited Biloxi to research the Back Bay Mission’s Housing Rehabilitation Program, and tour all their programs. I also took a two day jaunt to New Orleans to check out Camp Restore, another nonprofit offering volunteer opportunities.

The majority of the time I shadowed Associate for Housing Recovery Craig Steenkamp and his Assistant for Housing Recovery Alan “Benji” Benzschawel, and observed how they run their programs. It was a great experience being a fly on the wall while observing a volunteer group from Genoa, Ohio working with the Back Bay Mission staff.

I picked up some great tips from Craig. We discussed differences in how we do things, and we helped each other with ideas that have worked for our volunteers and programs.

After running Maine Seacoast Mission’s Housing Rehabilitation Program for thirteen years, this was the first time I experienced someone else’s program. I highly recommend others in our field of service do the same. I came back to the Mission’s Downeast Campus refreshed and inspired to have the best possible program experience for our wonderful volunteers and our clients.

In New Orleans I met Walt [Walter Schmudlach, Construction Supervisor] with the Housing Division of Camp Restore. Arriving at their campus I realized right off the bat Camp Restore is a whole different volunteer experience than those offered by Maine Seacoast Mission, and the Back Bay Mission. Our programming is much more intimate with both volunteers and clients.

Camp Restore had about 250 volunteers there in one week, and over 100 volunteer opportunities throughout the city, ranging from planting cypress trees, to soup kitchen, to their housing program. Visiting Camp Restore was still a great experience, and I did have a chance to take photos of a seven block radius where a tornado tore through a few weeks prior. The extent of damage and fury a tornado can unleash on a community in the matter of a few minutes was amazing to see. I am happy to live in Maine!