theParklander

Rebuilding New Orleans
By theParklander / June & July 2012

"WE WENT FOR TWO WEEKS and stayed," is how Zack Rosenburg, co-founder of the St. Bernard Project (SBP), describes his and Liz McCartney's journey to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Zack and Liz, a lawyer and teacher, respectively, from Washington, D.C., volunteered their services in early 1996 to help in the rebuilding of New Orleans. During their initial month of service, they met residents who were courageous, spirited and determined to rebuild their lives and community. They shared their stories, opened their homes and made Liz and Zack laugh, cry and question their own values. Inspired by the residents' collective spirit, openness and fierce desire to rebuild their lives and community, Zack and Liz decided, in March, 1996, to create an organization that would provide vital resources and support to families in a seamless and timely manner. SBP's programs and goals are directly driven by the needs expressed by the community members.

Together, they say, "Our mission is to remove barriers for families who wish to move back into their homes in Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes. To carry out this mission, SBP has established a Volunteer Driven Rebuilding Program, an Opportunity Housing Program, a Good Work Good Pay (GWGP) Program and a Center for Wellness and Mental Health.

Thanks to our many donors, volunteers and sponsors, we are able to rebuild a home with 12 weeks of volunteer labor for the low average cost of $20,000. We are a 501(c)(3), so all donations are tax deductible."

Witnessing and learning from inefficiencies and inadequacies of the traditional disaster recovery model, SBP pioneered the vertically integrated construction model. This method saves time and money by doing almost all necessary construction services in-house, which allows SBP to build homes with greater efficiency and bring more families home. Over the past five years, SBP has grown to an organization with more than 30 employees and 65 AmeriCorps members, working with more than 10,000 volunteers annually. SBP has rehabilitated more than 425 houses, affordably built 13 affordable housing units, and created jobs for fifteen war veterans.

SBP operates four direct service programs: Rebuilding Program, Opportunity Housing, Good Work Good Pay and Mental Health Programs. Each is designed to restore the hard-working, family-oriented communities in New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish and to reach the following goals: create humane, safe, secure and affordable housing; ensure that individuals, families and the community as a whole are mentally healthy and well; and create living wage jobs for veterans in the community.

Locally, The Patrón Spirit Company (Patrón) hosted its sixth annual Charity Golf Tournament benefiting SBP on April 26 at the Country Club of Coral Springs. John McDonnell, COO of Patrón, stated that Patrón had been working with SBP for several years, sending groups of people from time to time to assist in the Rebuilding Program, and chose SBP as this year's tournament beneficiary. Close to 150 golfers and dozens of companies joined Patrón in this endeavor, raising $140,600 for the St. Bernard Project. To donate, or for more information, visit www.stbernardproject.org.




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