Cardinal Newman High School Class of 2013 alumni Michael Carabello, John Daniell and Maria Ruggiero, and current senior Melissa Carabello, recently participated in the Catholic Heart Work Camp in New Orleans, making a difference in a region still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina eight years ago.
A school became their home for six days, as the volunteers slept in classrooms and used make-shift outdoor showers constructed from PVC piping.
They began their mornings at 5 a.m., attending daily morning Mass at 5:30 a.m. Ruggiero, a recipient of President Barack Obama’s Volunteer Service Award for accumulating more than 1,000 volunteer hours over the past year, and Daniell spent their first day sprucing up St. Clement of Rome School, repainting school hallways and the parking lot. They spent their remaining workdays with Habitat for Humanity, helping to finish the construction of a home in central New Orleans near the shadow of the Superdome.
Carabello spent her week volunteering in another school, preparing it to reopen for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Michael Carabello had perhaps the most difficult job of the group — constructing a bathroom virtually on his own in a home for a nun and her elderly mother, working hours on end in the small space.
The Carabellos’ mother, Kelly, joined the group by volunteering at a community garden and helping fix up a home damaged by Hurricane Katrina in the lower Ninth Ward. While there, she leaned that the house she was working in was almost entirely underwater during the storm.
After returning from volunteering each day, the groups would quickly shower and then head off to an evening worship program, often lasting until 10 p.m.
Michael Carabello often found himself drafted into the night’s activities, performing on stage numerous times during the trip, including warning the campers of an impending “bear” attack. It was an amazing way for these Crusaders to spend the beginning of their summer.
ABOVE: Maria Ruggiero helps construct a home in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity.