Nathan and Esther Thomas took a break from working on their future home

Credits: Photograph by Stephen Karlisch

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"We had the wonderful opportunity to know everyone before the place was built," said Nathan Thomas, a New Orleans art teacher and Katrina survivor. Nathan had been deeply homesick. He missed running into kids he'd taught at his elementary school; he missed the potluck studio parties, full of good food and conversation with local artists, thrown by his mentor, sculptor John T. Scott.

But like all the others, Nathan threw himself into his new community. He and his wife, Esther, logged 600 hours of labor—twice the basic requirement.

February 18—move-in day—was Esther's birthday!
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