Katrina Homes Neighborhoods
Her name is Mako—like the shark—and she's a 1971 Chevy Stingray Corvette. Matthew decided to auction off his baby on eBay® to raise money for Oprah's Angel Network. His plan was to build a playground in Houston for all the evacuees who relocated to Angel Lane after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Matthew's been committed to Angel Lane and the 65 families in the neighborhood for well over a year.
"We schedule our work. We schedule our vacations. Service is the harder one, selfishly sometimes, to schedule. But I've noticed that for me and for everybody that I know that signs up to go give some time to something, as soon as you're done, it feels like the vacation from the inside out," Matthew says.
"When I saw it on TV, I thought what a perfect opportunity to do something wonderful for him while doing something wonderful to help so many people," Missy says.
"Whether it's sports, athletics, whether it's meeting other kids, this is where communities start, on playgrounds like this," Matthew says.
The cement is poured, and the equipment is delivered. Matthew even calls in reinforcements—including fellow Texan and superstar Houston Astros pitcher Roger Clemens.
"Y'all remember what this looked like? Now we got that playground, we got benches we can sit on. We got a merry-go-round. We got a sandbox. Now, let's go play!" Matthew says.
The kids rush to test it out. Merry-go-round! Slides! Everything works!
To top off a hard day's work, Houston's own NBA legend Clyde Drexler sends over his world-famous Texas BBQ.
"Success today—9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Playground's up," Matthew says. "Good stuff today, man. Very, very good stuff."
"To put faces to the dream that we had together a year ago moved me like nothing else. It moved mountains emotionally. Because in light of what happened with Katrina, I felt so helpless a year ago watching television and not knowing what I could do from 1,500 miles away," Bon Jovi says.
Jon says his donation was the best $1 million he's ever spent. Between himself, his band and his football team, the Philadelphia Soul, Jon says he has built 49 homes. Still, Jon says it's everyone's responsibility to help out.
"It is America's responsibility to do that," Oprah says. "There's still thousands and thousands of people without homes."
"We have to help each other in order to keep community alive," Jon says.
As Jon cuts the ribbon to Bon Jovi Boulevard, the excited new homeowners cheer at the top of their lungs. "I wanted to make a difference and by pooling our efforts with the Oprah Angel Network we were able to build this dream so you guys can have a place to lay your head in comfort and pursue your dreams again and hug your babies," Jon says.
After Jon hands everyone their keys, he has a surprise for the new homeowners: Sprint has given everyone a phone and free service for a year!
That's not all.... Thanks to the generosity of Sprint Communications, Inc. and GameTime, Inc., a state-of-the-art playground is now ready to go for the entire neighborhood.
"Welcome home, everybody, to Bon Jovi Boulevard!" Jon says.
The family gasps as they see their new living room with bright yellow walls, beautiful striped couches and wood floors.
Their new kitchen, however, means the most to them. Just the day before, the Halls ate their meals camped out on a garage floor. Now, they'll be eating in their brand new kitchen, complete with new appliances, wood floors and a dining set with gorgeous red chairs.
"No more eating on the floor!" Angela exclaims.
The family can't get over their new kitchen and living room. It's decorated with Danielle's sons' artwork! Still, the best part of the Martins' new home may just be that everyone has their own room! Danielle's son has a sports theme, and her daughter's room also features her very own artwork. Danielle's master bedroom features a soothing palette of earth tones and a big comfortable bed.
Danielle can't thank Jon enough. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. If I had a million hugs, I would thank you a million times."
She finds her school completely destroyed and wanders the bare halls. "I just hope that most of the students made it out. I know that some didn't, but I'm hoping that most did," she says.
One child who did make it was Sylvia's 11-year-old son, Chester. After the storm, Chester lived with his father hundreds of miles away as she searched for work and a place to live. They were separated for nine long months.
"The hardest part was not being with my son. He called me one day and said, 'Mom, I need you to help me with my homewwork.' And I tried to help him over the phone," she says.
Sylvia breaks down into tears as she sees her new living room, complete with a portrait of her and Chester. "I'm sorry, I keep crying," she says. "As long as it's all tears of joy," says Jon. "No more tears of pain."
"I had tears in my eyes back there, I really did. It warmed my heart," Richie says. "I'm so glad we can do all that stuff."
Eva wanted to do more, though. Now that the home they sponsored is built, she flew to Dothan, Alabama, to help the new owner, Anya, settle in.
Anya and her young son fled New Orleans, first to Texas before moving again to Alabama. "Hurricane Katrina took away family, it took away friends," she says. "It took away life as we knew it."
After Eva and Anya plant some greenery, Eva surprises Anya with a housewarming gift that is sure to help Anya put down more roots in Dothan—a porch swing.
"It's amazing that my son has a swing and a yard to run around in. And my mom gets to be right next door to me," Anya says. "My heart is overwhelmed."
"What made it feel so special is that we actually made the connection through Oprah's Angel Network," Lisa Grain says. "We were so inspired, we want to do it again."
To date, more than $11 million has been donated to the Katrina project.
The original mission was to build more than 100 homes in the Gulf States, and the construction continues. More homes are being built in Jackson, Mississippi, and a second street of homes funded by NBA player Kevin Garnett was finished in August. Now, 18 families have started new lives there.
"You all saw where your money is going," Oprah says. "Thank you so much."