Louisiana build features three generations of Stoesz family among volunteers

Louisiana build features three generations of Stoesz family among volunteers

Last week’s Higher Ground on the Bayou Build in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, brought together dozens of volunteers to help a couple of families who have been dealing with the aftermath of historic flooding for months. A trio of volunteers, though, had a special connection that no other group of volunteers could match.

Randall Stoesz

Among the volunteers the build brought together were three generations of the Stoesz family — patriarch Edgar Stoesz, his son Randall and grandson David. They each have followed different roads in their careers, but they share a love for making the world a better place to live.

“It’s real special,” said Dr. Randall Stoesz, a pediatrician in Carmel, Indiana. “We’ve worked together before but never on a build like this together. We’re pretty compatible co-workers.”

Edgar Stoesz

Dr. Stoesz has worked on several builds for both The Fuller Center and Habitat for Humanity, as has his father, Edgar, who said he has done five with Habitat and five with The Fuller Center. Edgar said having three generations work together on this build was “a real bonus.”

“David is good with his hands, and I thought he’d be a good builder,” said the eldest Stoesz, who serves on The Fuller Center’s International Board of Directors and was once chairman of the board for Habitat. “Randy is probably the most skilled one of us. I’m just glad they were able to work it out with their schedules so we could all be here having a great time.”

David Stoesz

Though the family’s roots are in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, David’s trip to the build was the shortest as he works with The Nature Conservancy and lives in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

“A lot of my co-workers are either from Louisiana or Mississippi,” David said. “I’ve grown really connected to the land here, and I’ve formed a really nice bond with our preserves in Mississippi and Louisiana. Most of my work, I do alone, so it’s nice to get out here and see some people and work with others.”

Flood-impacted families waited a long time for this week to come

Flood-impacted families waited a long time for this week to come

When Cathy Wagner’s 13-year-old grandson got home from school on Wednesday, he stopped in his tracks and smiled. When she asked him what was wrong, he just kept smiling and responded:


Cathy and her husband David, a Vietnam veteran, used much of their life savings to purchase their “dream house” in Albany, Louisiana, a little more than three years ago. They even purchased flood insurance for the first year until their agent convinced them it was a waste of money. The area had never flooded, and it would never flood, he insisted. They canceled it.

In August, though, a flood deemed a once-in-500-years event began lapping at their doorstep. When they went to bed, their floors were dry. In the middle of the night, they were wading through three feet of water on their way to their four-wheel drive truck. It stalled in the rising water. Later, someone tried to rescue them by boat, but a tree fell on the boat, injuring Cathy’s knee and sending them back into the house. They would be in there with the floodwaters for 18 more hours before an airboat came by to rescue them.

Cathy and David Wagner thank Fuller Center volunteers for their work on their “dream home” in Albany, Louisiana, on Thursday.

For the last few months, the Wagners have been living in a FEMA trailer behind the damaged home. Already disabled, they blame the living conditions for respiratory problems they have developed since the flood.

This week, however, about two dozen volunteers from across the nation have come to Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, to help the Wagners get out of that FEMA trailer and back into their dream home.

“I’m so excited and so happy and so thankful,” Cathy said Thursday, the final day of the Higher Ground on the Bayou Flood Recovery Build. “I feel so blessed right now. Everybody here has been so lovely and so nice.”



In the Pumpkin Center neighborhood of nearby Hammond, Louisiana, Bill Hayden, also a Vietnam veteran, and his wife Debi thought they had seen it all after living on the same property since 1990. For the first 15 years, they lived in a doublewide. When they were in the middle of building their dream home, Hurricane Katrina hit.

“We just watched the trees blow in the wind, but we had no major damage,” Debi recalled. “We were able to finish the house just fine.”

Certainly, if they could survive Katrina, there would be almost nothing Mother Nature could throw at them to disrupt their lives. Almost.

Like the Wagners, they say they were also told that flood insurance would be a waste of money. In August, their home was flooded with about 20 inches of water. They, too, partnered with the Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing to get repairs during this week’s Higher Ground on the Bayou Build.

Fuller Center President David Snell presents a Bible to Bill and Debi Hayden during Thursday’s dedication ceremony.

“It was a very disturbing event,” Bill said of the flood. “We have bought flood insurance just in case it happens again.”

For now, though, thanks to Ginger Ford Northshore Director Tamara Danel and the volunteers she helped bring to Louisiana this week, they have nearly completed their long journey back from the flood.

“This is a great opportunity for us to serve and do what we do,” Danel said during the dedication ceremony at the Hayden home with hot sunshine beaming down. “We want to see you back in your beautiful home and be proud of it and feel safe in it.”




Volunteers came from all across the country to work in Louisiana this week, but only one came from out of the country — Jose Santos Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been an integral part of The Fuller Center’s local leadership team in Nicaragua as the group’s project manager. He knows architecture and engineering, but travel is not his specialty.

“It’s my first trip to the United States,” he said. “It’s my first time on a plane.”

Santos said the many volunteers who keep coming to work in Nicaragua through The Fuller Center’s Global Builders program have provided a tremendous boost to the families and local employment picture in the Las Peñitas area, and he wanted to do a little to pay it forward. He’ll also hanging around for this weekend’s Fuller Center Conference at which he’ll meet with Global Builders team leaders. And now that he’s gotten his first plane flight under his belt, he’ll have another before going back to Nicaragua.

“I’m flying to L.A. to see family,” he said. “I haven’t seen them since 1998.”


Hammond Daily Star article about the Build

high-resolution photo gallery from the build




VIDEO: One of the best looks at flood damage in Livingston Parish, Louisiana

The Fuller Center was recently alerted to a YouTube video that has been seen nearly 20,000 times and provides some of the best footage from the flooding in Livingston Parish, which is where the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders have established a base to help families recover from the disaster that struck last summer.

The Disaster ReBuilders are currently in Denham Springs, La., and are welcoming volunteers who want to help. Click here to learn more about volunteering with the Disaster ReBuilders.

Livingston Parish borders Tangipahoa Parish, another hard-hit community where the Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing is based. Ginger Ford is hosting a 4-day flood recovery build in April and also hosts Fuller Center U.S. Builders teams working in flood recovery.

The video above features many scenes from the flooding and features interviews with many affected residents, including actor/director John Schneider (“Dukes of Hazzard,” “Smallville”), who lives in Livingston Parish and has a production studio there. As he states in the video:

“That’s how God works. God sends people — people who care.” — John Schneider, actor/producer/director and Livingston Parish resident

Also in the video, you can see people wearing “This is church” T-shirts. These come from one of our church partners on the ground — Christ Community Church of Denham Springs.

Support Fuller Center disaster recovery


LOUISIANA FLOOD UPDATE: Report from Fuller Center leader in Tangipahoa Parish

LOUISIANA FLOOD UPDATE: Report from Fuller Center leader in Tangipahoa Parish

Earlier this year in March, Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing Executive Director Tamara Danel reported that flooding in southern Louisiana — including in Tangipahoa Parish where her covenant partner is based — was the worst the lifelong Louisianan had seen in her lifetime.

Until this month, that is. Flooding has damaged more than 40,000 homes and taken the lives of at least 13 people. Short-term disaster relief has arrived in bulk, but Danel knows that recovery from a disaster of this magnitude takes months and even years for some. In fact, earlier this month, she worked to help a family in Pearl River, Louisiana, get a decent home for the first time since their house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“I think there’s a lot of shock and a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder right now,” Danel said Thursday of residents dealing with two floods of historic proportion in the span of just a few months. “Everybody’s still in shock and disbelief and overwhelmed.”

Danel said Ginger Ford Northshore is working closely with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, which is mucking out the soggy homes and clearing the way for The Fuller Center and others to follow with repairs. She added that the Ginger Ford Northshore’s main targets for assistance will be those without flood insurance — especially the elderly and disabled.

You can hear the entire 8-minute interview with Danel below:


Support flood recovery in louisiana here

David Snell: Louisiana flooding victims need our help

David Snell: Louisiana flooding victims need our help

Last week, as much as 20 inches of rain fell in some parts of Louisiana in less than 48 hours. One of the hardest-hit parishes is Tangipahoa, where the very busy and effective Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing is based.

Ginger Ford Northshore Executive Director Tamara Danel was raised in nearby New Orleans, where flooding has always been a common occurrence. But she says she has never witnessed flooding like this. In Tangipahoa Parish, more than a thousand houses took in water and more than 2,800 people had to be rescued by boat.

“This flood affected rich and poor alike,” she said. “We are very worried about the homes where no flood insurance was required and the families do not have the resources to go out and buy all new insulation, drywall, baseboard molding, doors and appliances. Those families need their homes repaired quickly before any unwelcome black mold takes over.”

100 percent of donations made to our disaster fund will go toward helping these families rebuild their homes and their lives.

Scenes like this are all too common in Tangipahoa Parish, where more than 1,000 homes took in water from last week's massive rains.

Scenes like this are all too common in Tangipahoa Parish, where more than 1,000 homes took in water from last week’s massive rains.

Our friends at Ginger Ford Northshore do an outstanding job and already had committed to one new home build, two ReNew projects and at least 25 Greater Blessing repairs before this flood struck. Those ambitious plans already had stretched their 2016 budget thin, and they currently do not have the money in their budget for this recovery effort. But this outstanding Fuller Center covenant partner stands willing to help flood victims if we can simply help them raise the money to do the job.

So let’s do it! Let’s extend that helping hand to families in need!

The Fuller Center for Housing helps families in need of a decent place to call home. That need becomes stark when disaster strikes, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable among us. As the floodwaters recede in Louisiana many families are facing great hardship, especially those who were uninsured and don’t have access to the resources to repair their homes.

We will be reaching out to these families, and we need your support. Remember, 100 percent of donations made to our disaster fund will go toward helping these families rebuild their homes and their lives.

donate to help flood victims