Destrehan couple get help from teen-age work crew

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 27, 2000

DESTREHAN – They came from all across the country, giving up a week of their teen-age summer to help someone else.

“I’m already tired!” said 14-year-old Leah Renda of Alexandria, but she was grinning from ear to ear.

The teen-age work crew, girls and boys, began work Monday on scraping off old paint and whitewash and preparing to give the 72-year-old Destrehan house its first coat of paint in more than a decade.

Johnny and Sharon Orlando have lived in the house at 13638 River Road in Destrehan for 25 years. The house itself is of historical significance,being one of two built in 1928 by local carpenter Albert Pollet between Red Church and Ormond Plantation. It was built at a cost of $3,500.The Orlandos hit upon hard times following a 1989 auto accident which left dump truck driver Johnny Orlando permanently disabled and unable to keep up the house as it needs.

Enter the National Catholic H.E.A.R.T. Camp (Help the Elderly Attain RepairsToday). Started in 1993 by Steven and Lisa Walker of Goldenrod, Fla., itorganizes groups of young people into work crews to give up a week of their summers and help other people.

Coordinating with St. Charles Council on Aging, Associated CatholicCharities, Kingsley House, Christmas in October, City of New Orleans and State Sen. Paulette Irons, the HEART Camp aims to help young people liveout their baptismal call to serve others.

More than 350 young people are at work in the greater New Orleans area, including the Uptown, Downtown and Lakeview areas of New Orleans and at the Orlando house in Destrehan.

Almost 50 projects are going on all this week across the area, including carpentry, house cleaning, yard work and assisting at a daycare facility.

Sharon Orlando, a published inspirational poet, is active at neighboring St.

Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, where she still leads retreats. Whenshe learned she and her husband would receive this vital help to protect their 72-year-old house, she wept for joy.

“It’s just a miracle! It’s wonderful!” she exclaimed.

The young people are from Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin and California. They are bunking at Hahnville High School’s gym while they arehere, according to transition deacon Louis Sklar from the Diocese of Alexandria, who is currently attending Notre Dame Seminary in preparation to becoming a priest.

The students pay $250 for the privilege of joining the camp and also have to provide their own travel expenses and work supplies. However, theexperience is matchless in providing opportunity for service to others as well as inspirational fellowship, Sklar said.

The students, ages 12-18, spend the weekdays working from 9 a.m. to 2p.m. and their evenings in prayer, song and meditation. They are eating atthe school cafeteria. They arrived Sunday and organized into work crewsthat afternoon.

Stephanie Della Sala, 16, of Keller, Texas, scraped the exterior walls of the house without complaint and without stopping, along with her new friends, until a lunch break was called.

“I didn’t think it would be this much fun, but it is!” she commented with a broad smile.

Mike Schaffer, 17, from the south side of Chicago, is simply enjoying the balmy Louisiana weather.

More information is available at the program’s website at The week for the young people concludes with8:30 p.m. mass at Hahnville High School.

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