About Long Haul

We are so glad that you are interested in supporting recovery work in the Gulf Coast region. If you have volunteered before, you know how vast the problems and needs are. If you are considering your first trip, you may be surprised by how much still remains to be repaired and restored after more than two years. The slow pace of the recovery, the bureaucracy, the incompetence and the neglect are shocking to many people. Whether or not you can volunteer, there are Ways to Help.

Our volunteer efforts began through the Winchester Unitarian Society in Winchester, MA, and led to the formation of a non-denominational, all volunteer, non-profit, tax-exempt organization: Gulf Coast Volunteers for the Long Haul, affectionately referred to as "Long Haul."

More Than 150 Volunteers

We've always welcomed people from many different faiths and no faiths, just as we work with people of any and all faiths in the Gulf Coast. We've had the privilege of working with more than 150 volunteers since the fall of 2005, ranging in age from 15 to 84.

Long Haul organizes and leads week-long Service Trips for volunteers every two months. As people who have been volunteering since two weeks after Katrina hit, we have made a commitment to stay the course and keep returning until the people living in the region have been able to put their lives, homes and communities back together.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Who Are We?

We're just like you. Ordinary people, American citizens who couldn't believe what was happening in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and wanted to do something - especially because the government, many insurance carriers and established relief organizations proved incapable of providing the response that was needed (and they have yet to come through for many thousands of people).

Like you, we have not forgotten our sisters and brothers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Each time we go to serve, people there tell us how much it matters to them that we continue to show up. Many have said that volunteers buoy their spirits and renew their hope and faith in humanity. Many have said that without volunteers, they would never be able to rebuild.

Even Though Not Everyone Can Volunteer, Everyone Can Help

We know not everyone is able to go in person to volunteer - or go back on a regular basis. So that's where Long Haul comes in. Long Haul does what it does on behalf of many other caring people. Let us be your eyes and ears, hands and heart, and go on your behalf. What we can accomplish is very small so we can't promise dramatic results. Only that we do our best to serve with humility, love and deep respect.

There are many ways to help (link to Many Ways to Help). We welcome you in joining with us so that together we can make real the commitment - to keep going back for as long as it takes.

Our Story:

Gulf Coast Volunteers for the Long Haul (Long Haul) is an all volunteer, non-profit, tax-exempt organization incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We organize relief trips to the Gulf Coast for groups of up to 40 people, ranging in age from teens to adults. Our president, the Reverend Mary J. Harrington, is a Unitarian Universalist minister. We have a small budget that comes from donations and special events.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina and broken levees unleashed unprecedented damage on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. On November 1, 2005, Rev. Mary led a group of 15 adult and youth relief workers to assist residents of St. Tammany Parish on the north shore of Lake Ponchatrain. Since then Rev. Mary and other Long Haul board members have been leading service trips every two months.

It became clear from our initial relief work that the conditions in New Orleans and in much of Louisiana and Mississippi will require the involvement of volunteers for years to come. The question of how to not just sustain, but expand, involvement in on-going relief efforts led to the creation of Long Haul.

Our Board of Directors is made up of 14 people who have led or participated in numerous week-long service trips. The Board meets monthly to oversee Long Haul operations and coordinate fundraising efforts. We have also set up an Advisory Board made up of college students and young adults who have volunteered with us.

From Betsy Bowles, Volunteer and Long Haul's Vice-President:

Fragile and Broken
January 26, 2006

I have been thinking about things somewhat differently since our trip in November.

When I stop to categorize my thoughts, most can be grouped under two headings:

Thoughts of things that are fragile - some tangible.some intangible

Thoughts of things that are broken - some tangible...some intangible

I think a lot about the fragile feelings of the 15 of us that made this memorable trip-

just how fragile our feelings were - we cried quietly alone, we cried together in our evening de-briefing meetings and we cried in fragile moments as we physically embraced our fellow Unitarians.

Naturally I would think about the fragility of home ownership; I think it should be everyone's right to have their own home. Picture your home - everything you own - in every room - from your outstretched arms down, moldy and soggy from days of being in muddy river water.

How fragile the poorly constructed homes were in the 140 mile per hour winds; destroyed homes for blocks, as far I could see.

How fragile were the baby shoes, a Grandmother's sewing machine and a treasured photo album as they were swept away by a 20 foot wall of water - from how far away we don't know - only to land in a ditch of stagnant, green slime.

How fragile were the refrigerators as they floated from room to room.

How fragile the sheet-rock we removed- polka dot with green and black mold.

How fragile but deep- the depth of their loss when a man refuses to take his wife back into their destroyed home. To quote him - "It would just kill her on the spot".

How fragile the levees were- when the flood waters rose over the tops and the city's fragile pumping system lost power and failed.

How fragile were the lives of New Orleans 500,000 citizens- a high percentage of them being black and poor and children.

How broken is a system that would make it impossible for a daughter to find her sick Mother for 63 days. As the water rose, she was moved from a safe Hospice House to a hospital, to the jail on higher ground where she died and then finally sent to a morgue in another county with hundreds of other unidentified bodies.

How broken is the mentality of one community that would put another community in harm's way because of the color of their skin.

How broken is a society where every individual doesn't feel deep, lingering compassion for the people of the Gulf Coast.

How broken are we if we don't rethink our priorities- we that live in the richest nation on the planet.

Thank you for helping those of us that go there to restore hope -just a fragile measure of hope- in some instances hope for only a day -but hope none the less.

Hope for those who need to witness that we mean it when we attest to the "worth and dignity" of every human being-

A commitment that should be neither fragile nor broken.