Bart Tucker, organizer of Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders has done some pretty remarkable things. Within hours of hearing of the massive disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Bart Tucker a retired US Air Force colonel living in northern Virginia just outside Washington DC, got in his car and went to Mississippi to help. He arrived to find near total destruction. He quickly established a relationship with a church and began working on flooded and damaged homes. Most of the money and resources that came on early were from Bart’s friends and fellow church members from northern Virginia. With Bart’s leadership over 100 homes were rebuilt or new homes built in the Bay St Louis, Mississippi area in 3 plus years.
After about three years of operation, neighborhoods wanted the church to shut down the mission and its constant stream of volunteers. That coincided with Hurricane Ike hitting the Texas coast. The Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders packed up their tools and moved to the Orange City/Bridge City area not far from Galveston. By now Bart and his crew had regular teams coming to help from around the country. They spent over a year in Texas rebuilding over 18 homes.
With the work winding down, Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders wasn’t sure where they would be called next. Bart then spoke with some folks in south Plaquemines Parish, LA. Plaquemines Parish is a peninsula at the very end of the Mississippi River Delta. Port Sulphur where the work is being done is about an hour and half south of New Orleans. Where New Orleans is tourist, hotels and night life, south Plaquemines Parish is working fishing boats, oil refineries, and still many FEMA trailers. Most of the parish (county) has a levee protecting it from the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina breached the levee and water flooded nearly the entire parish. Wind damage was another issue that destroyed much of what wasn’t flooded. Rebuilding was slow in the very rural parish. Then along came the BP oil spill further stressing the improvised community. The local United Way wanted to help build houses for those who had been impacted by Katrina. Many families owned their property but their houses were not salvageable. The United Way knew they needed a partner with home building experience and a solid reputation. A deal was struck with Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders under the leadership of Bart and several other great folks involved with this mission partner. Bart, his wife, Heather and their young daughter Alyssa picked up and moved again in January to be part of a mission that is far from family and friends.
The Tuckers are now living at the host church, Port Sulphur Baptist Church, compound where volunteers come in to stay, eat morning and evening meals and have after hour fellowship.
After almost six years of helping build and rebuild homes for people he didn’t know, no one would criticize Bart for saying “it is now someone else’s turn to take the challenge.” Add Heather’s career at Hewitt Packard and their 19 month old daughter, an ordinary family might want the finer amenities in life. This is not what the Tucker’s have chosen. Just spend a couple minutes talking the them about those they are helping or chat with them about the rich relationships with their volunteers and you will see they are fully committed to doing God’s mission work. It is easy to see through Bart’s keen sense of humor the servant heart that he brings to this mission, not to mention the many other fine folks he has attracted to the mission I am very grateful and humbled to know these servants that work among us at Fuller Center.
Stay tuned for more details as the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders gets going in Plaquemines Parish. Upon arriving, they immediately took on two Greater Blessing projects and are lining up the first of the new homes to be constructed. Better than waiting for news, schedule a mission trip for your church or group to Plaquemines Parish and catch the spirit first hand of someone among us that is “living the mission”.
Give Bart a call at Phone 228-297-8480 or email DisasterReBuilders@fullercenter.org
Submitted by Glen Barton
Vice President, US Field Operations
The Fuller Center for Housing