The SPCP Family
At Fall Conference, our very own Debbie Guastella, convention coordinator and speaker, lovingly known as Scarlett, traveled through several states to finally end up at Pensacola, Florida to be able to fly to Philadelphia to join us. No Hurricane named Katrina was going to beat her down even though she has suffered great damage to her home, making it impossible to live there.
During the reception at this event, the attendees presented her, with much fanfare, a basket of gift cards to help her in some small way recover a bit from the disaster she faced. In her gracious way, she wholeheartedly thanked us all but wanted to pass these on to her daughter, Courtney, who lost absolutely everything.
It is hard to say thank you to people you have either never met or have only had a brief encounter with, particularly when the acts of these same people seem to warrant so much more than just some written words.
My name is Courtney Guastella. I realize that the intent at your recent SPCP Conference was to come to the aid of my mother, Debbie Guastella in a time of need, as colleagues and more importantly as her friends. My mom has always tried to teach me that God gives generously to some with the expectation that they in turn will give to others. I have always thought of God as an excellent CEO who realizes that He cannot reach us all and micromanage. Therefore, He leaves it to us to pass along the wealth of love and kindness we share to those in need. Mom calls it “paying it forward” which is exactly what she did.
I lived in an area of New Orleans called Lakeview, better known now as “ground zero”. I’m sure by now you are all familiar with the 17th Street Canal which breached and broke shortly after the initial hit of Hurricane Katrina, and flooded the city of New Orleans. I lived six blocks from that breach, in a small white house with big trees and sweet neighbors.
A week ago I went back for the first time since the Saturday before the storm, when I threw some jeans and a few tee shirts into a duffle bag and left for what I thought was going to be a small inconvenience for a few days away from home. Five weeks later I returned to what can only be described as a dead place. A neighborhood that once was vibrant green, filled with noises and smiles, was now washed in a layer of brown muck and still – nothing survived. I explained to a friend sitting next to me that “heartbroken” seemed such a pale explanation.
I drove to my parents home to find more devastation and destruction, but there was some movement and life. It was then that mom gave me the bag of gift cards she received at the conference from you all. She explained it was for me to start rebuilding my life and replacing the lost things, which is all of them. So far, I have purchased new towels and some kitchen things. I am going slowly; however, those gift cards have become the bright part of my days. I go shopping whenever I can and pick something out that will become part of my new home, that is when I can return home. I put these new things in boxes and smile about what the future might hold.
In the “paying it forward” tradition, I used some of the gift cards to purchase some toys and clothing for some children at a local shelter. All I have to give right now is my sincere thanks and gratitude for your unyielding kindness to mom and me and a promise that we will rebuild and take care of one another. We are a grieving community and while we have seen the worst of humanity through this storm, we have also seen the best in folks like yourselves, and for that we are forever changed. Thank you again, Courtney Guastella