2007 – Wanting to incorporate the people on his tours in a more proactive way, Kevin suggested we organize a house building effort utilizing the bands, and crew from the Warped Tour and to spend a day off in the Gulf Coast rebuilding homes. Unfortunately, we were unable to make the logistics work with Habitat for Humanity at that time, but we were able to contact an organization called the Volunteer Center of Southwest Louisiana . This is an organization along with Cameron Community Action/Council on Aging that is assisting a small group of small towns (called parishes) in the SW corner of Louisiana (about 500 miles from New Orleans).
The area of Cameron Parish was pretty much completely overlooked by any national relief efforts. They were absolutely devastated by Hurricane Rita and were in dire need of assistance. So they gladly accepted our help. Little did they know we would be rolling through town with a huge caravan of dyed and dirty crusty punk rockers. The plan was this, there was a day off scheduled on June 29th between the Atlanta and Houston Warped shows. On that travel day the tour would be passing through Louisiana. So we sent out information to all the bands and began recruiting volunteers to pitch in and help to clear debris and do what we could to rebuild this community. Lyman scheduled an early buss call in Atlanta and we arranged for all the volunteers to meet at the Lk Charles Convention Center in Lk Charles, LA. We made arrangements with the local school district to make a fleet of school busses and drivers available to shuttle the volunteers out to the remote work sites in Cameron Parish.
That morning we rolled into Lk Charles with 400 volunteers. They filled the buses, were brought to a local church where they were all treated to a homemade meal of vegan rice and beans prepared by an amazing group of local ladies. Then every volunteer was bussed out to mosquito infested, alligator filled, blazing hot and humid work sites. This volunteer corp. was made up of bands, (NOFX, The Bouncing Souls, The Casualties, Rise Against, Anti-Flag, Aiden, Paramore and many, many more), their crew members, tour sponsors (Vans, Volcom, Take Action etc), and Warped Tour production staff. That day, the volunteers were able to collect approximately seven tons of debris, clean up 20 different sites, directly affect over 80 family members, and give downtown Cameron Parish a complete facelift. Beyond that, friendships were made, social boundaries were crossed, and cultural differences were set aside.
The most amazing thing that was achieved that day was the simple act of humans coming together as humans. No one in this community expected these scary looking men and women to roll into town. They especially did not expect that these men and women would be so willing to work so hard and be so humble. One elderly woman approached a school bus driver working that day and said she had “been wrong about [tattooed punk rockers] all of her life.”
When the day was over, as the volunteers returned to the convention center parking lot in Lk Charles, the school busses were quiet and people were visibly changed by the experience. At the end of the day Lyman wrote this in his Warped Tour blog:
The Unite The United / Vans Warped Day of Volunteerism was pretty amazing and eye opening. The people of Cameron Parish were very thankful for our help and in return, I think we were thankful for the opportunity to help them. On a personal level, I am exhausted in a great way, not the mental way I often find myself on this tour. I will look differently at anyone who complains for the rest of the summer, about cold showers, or anything for that matter. We met people who have survived tragedy and continue to rebuild their lives. Thanks for allowing me a chance to be thankful for everything I have.
A few weeks later I received this email from a woman who lives in Cameron Parish:
I just wanted to take a minute to thank the Warped Tour volunteers that came into Cameron and made such a huge in pact on our little town. I was at work that day and saw the group working so hard and not to mention the hot temperatures that day. I even saw one guy in a cast from wrist to shoulder and he worked just as hard as everyone else. Believe me, they were a site to see, with the tattoos and piercing, not to mention the hair (I loved the neon yellow Mohawk)! Our town really isn’t accustomed to “different.” Hurricane Rita has changed so many people from our town and I have to say that most of the changes were definitely for the best, so I guess what I’m trying to say is that out of the many volunteers that have happened to pass through our town, the Warped Tour group has left the best impressions and lovely lasting memories. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.
So there it is. Thank you for letting me share this story!