Monday (June 12) was our first day of service work in New Orleans.
I was really excited because I knew that my team would be going to a place called ARC. ARC provides employment for adults with disabilities, and they help the environment by recycling Mardi Gras beads. I was told we would get to work with the employees sorting and repackaging beads, and we would learn a little about Mardi Gras in the process.
We were a little late to get to the warehouse in the morning because we couldn’t find it. We stopped to check the map again and eventually realized we were parked right next to it; we just couldn’t see that it was on the other side of a fence.
Once inside, we met Margie. She facilitates the bead sorting and is also an amazing jazz singer. She told us how to sort the beads by length and style. We learned about many different Krews – groups that sponsor parades during Mardi Gras. And, after seeing just one room full of beads, we realized just how important the work of recycling beads is. This year, they had over 150,000lbs of beads donated at the conclusion of Mardi Gras, and that is just a small percentage of the total beads purchased and thrown in the parades – the total is estimated to be between 20 and 25 MILLION pounds! There are so many beads used during Mardi Gras that sewers in the city have been backed up from them being left in the streets.
We spent the morning sorting beads with the employees and a few other people that came from a nearby center. There was a guy names Jabarri who came to help, and he was the sweetest person. He told everyone they were his best friends, and he told everyone about his favorite movies. It was such a joy to have him there. We got through one big box of beads (about 1,000lbs) that first day.
We were supposed to tour the French Quarter on Monday night, but it was storming, so we stayed in the church and had a lip sync battle instead.
We spent Tuesday doing the same thing at ARC, and at the end of the day, we got to purchase some beads from the stockpile. I bought my husband and myself matching beads 🙂
On Tuesday evening we got to take the students from our church group to the French Quarter for supper and to explore. As we were looking for a parking space, I had to drive down Bourbon Street briefly, but it was long enough for us to see quite an interesting sight. An older woman wearing nothing but black star pasties, black spanx, a pink cape, high heels, and a couple feather boas walked right in front of the van! As we were walking to the restaurant, we witnessed a small marching band just playing on a random Tuesday night. We ate supper at Daisy Duke’s. We all (except one of the sneaky boys in our group) tried crawfish for the first time, and I have thought about it at least once every day since then. It was delicious! After Daisy Duke’s we made our way to Cafe Du Monde for beignets. They were good, but I have to say, at the risk of everyone from New Orleans banishing me, they were basically funnel cake in a different shape.
We got back to church later than we were supposed to, but so did the other groups that were on site with us, so it wasn’t a big deal. We ended the night with large group worship and some time for our church groups to discuss and process the events of the day.