Eight Days of Hope bringing good works to St. John

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 9, 2013

By Kimbely Hopson and Richard Meek

LAPLACE – Eight Days of Hope, a faith-based organization that is committed to rebuilding homes affected by natural disasters, has finally touched down in LaPlace, and the volunteers are ready to take action.
The Tupelo, Miss.-based nonprofit expects to coordinate the arrival of approximately 2,500 skilled volunteers from 43 states and four countries in St. John the Baptist Parish. The volunteers will provide rebuilding assistance for homes affected by Hurricane Isaac from March 9 to March 16. The group plans to rebuild at least 349 houses and also plans to complete projects at Regala Park and assist churches in the area. Weather and volunteer skill levels will dictate how many homes they complete.
Parish President Natalie Robottom said initially 1,200 volunteers were expected but that number has doubled to 2,400, representing people from around the country as well as four countries.
“They are coming with skilled labor and equipment to do primarily home repairs,” Robottom said. “But the number of people (coming in) is exceeding what they will have work. They have reached out (to the parish) and they want to do more community service.”
Robottom said she has targeted several playgrounds for maintenance and other repairs, such as cleaning of bathrooms, removing dirt, improving landscaping and assorted duties.
“We want to take advantage of all of the volunteers that we’re going to have,” she said. “So we have a concerted effort of my staff working with others to plan what’s going to be needed at each park, to bring in loads of dirt, to bring in the playground mulch and have it there for them.”
Eight Days of Hope began as a spur-of-the-moment trip to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but blossomed into something much larger.
“My dad and I thought it would be fun to go down to the coast and fix a home or two. We started sharing that passion for wanting to help out a family, and next thing I know, it looked like we had 10 or 15 people wanting to go. Literally, within two months we had like 700 people. This little trip that was supposed to be three or four people ended up being 684 people,” said Steven Tybor III, the president and cofounder of the organization.
Tybor and other participants realized that many more people in the world wanted help and that there was still much work to be done, so they decided to form the nonprofit. Tybor said that the eight in the organization’s name comes from that initial trip.
“We built eight homes, and we went there for eight days. In the Bible, eight means new beginnings. So, we named it Eight Days of Hope.”
Since then, the organization has coordinated nine rebuilding effors, not counting LaPlace. The volunteers have been to two floods disasters: one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Nashville, Tenn. They’ve also done a total of six hurricane trips — four for Hurricane Katrina, one for Hurricane Rita and one for Hurricane Irene in North Carolina. Eight Days of Hope also did tornado recovery work in Smithville, Miss., and Hacklesburg, Ala.
The most recent trip took place in North Carolina. LaPlace is the biggest effort so far.
“These nine trips, we’ve rebuilt roughly 1,300 homes — about $14 million dollars worth of work. Being an all-volunteer organization, it’s just a God thing. He continutes to open doors for us to do what we do and the ministry gets bigger,” said Tybor.
Tybor is grateful for the amount of support he has received from the community and St. John Parish.
“LaPlace has welcomed us with open arms, and the St. John Recovery Group has been phenomenal to work with. They’re so organized, so focused and so wanting to help out the community that they’ve been a great partner,” he said.
Tybor said that the group is no longer accepting volunteers, but monetary and material donations are more than welcome either directly/in person, or through its website. Besides the actual building, Tybor said he hopes the group can show the communities that they visit the love of Jesus Christ.
“We’re faith-based, so we just want to share the hope of Jesus Christ. We’re thankful that this community has opened up its arms to us. Our goal is to touch people,” he said. “So when we leave, they don’t talk about Steve. They don’t talk about Eight Days of Hope. They may not even remember our names. But they say ‘You know what? During that week, I saw a glimpse of something special. And his name was Jesus.’”
For more information on Eight Days of Hope visit www.eightdaysof