Husband & wife meet as Katrina evacuees, volunteer to help restore Shoals school building damaged by same storm


SHEFFIELD, Ala. — It was a busy Monday morning at the Village School in Sheffield as renovations on the World War I-era building continued.

Village School Foundation Executive Director Greg Harrison said as Tropical Storm Ida approaches, he is on the cautious side since the building sustained structural damage and broken windows from a familiar storm 16 years prior.

“There are a lot of concerns; it is eerily similar,” Harrison said. “I am concerned there are still a few issues with the tile roof that we have in the building that we’re working on getting funding to repair.”

Volunteers Melissa and Matthew DeOrazio know quite a bit about restoration. Before moving to The Shoals two months ago, the couple lived in New Orleans, however, they met in Texas as evacuees during Hurricane Katrina.

“Katrina, really for me, was, including meeting Melissa and the birth of my son, one of the most profound experiences of my life,” Matthew said.

As Ida approaches northwest Alabama, on a similar track as Katrina, it creates a unique full-circle story for the DeOrazios as they volunteer to restore a building that, in 2005, was damaged by the same storm that brought them together.

“Our life is full of these little synchronicities and full-circle moments where it’s like, you realize a thing that you’ve touched 16 years ago is a thing that you’re involved in now in a way you never would’ve imagined,” Melissa said.

As former citizens of New Orleans, the couple brings to the Village School and The Shoals, a sense of resiliency and hope that shines even in the darkest times.

Donations for the Village School Foundation’s restoration can be made on GoFundMe and Facebook.

To learn more about the foundation and the school’s history, click here.

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