We use the efforts of volunteers from across the globe to rebuild the homes of families struggling to return to New Orleans post-Katrina.
Two young men who fell in love with New Orleans just before cataclysmic flooding devastated the city have fueled the creation and continued success of PNOLA. The first was Paul Ikemire, a Tulane Medical School student, who bought a house in the Lower Mid-City neighborhood just before Hurricane Katrina. Seeing his neighbors struggle to return, he realized that they needed an organization to assist them and access resources that they could not. The Phoenix of New Orleans was born, and has spent the past four years gutting and rebuilding homes in a working class neighborhood that has struggled to return since Katrina.
The second was Jim Coningsby, who came to school in New Orleans because he felt that college was the single greatest opportunity to do something that he would otherwise never have the chance to. Little did he know, Hurricane Katrina was to provide such an opportunity. After returning to New Orleans Jim lived and worked in the 9th Ward, gutting houses and developing relationships with community members. In doing so, he learned of the great need that his neighbors had, and saw an opportunity to re-develop a sense of community through creating a support network of community leaders, student volunteers, and various organizations. He began a Tulane University student organization called SAFER (Student Advocacy for Equitable Recovery) and led volunteers in gutting nearly 100 homes.
Eventually, their paths crossed and SAFER merged with PNOLA in order to maximize the effectiveness of both organizations. Through this partnership, resources and their respective accumulation of knowledge were combined to create a variety of programs designed to meet the needs of the families who are struggling to return home. Together, PNOLA has:
- Recruited nearly 4,000 volunteers from across the US, contributing to more than 72,000 hours of service.
- Gutted 200 properties (including churches, a fire station, and one school).
- Performed 73 complete and partial home rebuilding projects.
- Generated more than 73,000 AmeriCorps service hours.
- Raised $150,000 in project funding for homeowners.
- Helped to build 8 playgrounds with KaBOOM!
PNOLA has worked on homes for families that include people who were ripped off by contractors; people who did not receive enough money from their insurance companies or the Road Home Program to hire a contractor; and people who are in the forgotten fragment of the population that has too much money to qualify for the free rebuilding assistance that many other non-profits provide, but not enough money to hire a contractor to get the full job done on their own.
PNOLA's Housing Recovery Program has assisted 73 families with rebuilding their homes. Our homeowners cover the cost of materials and trade labor while we do the skilled labor required. We supplement the costs of rebuilding by using volunteers to perform the easily taught work such as painting, insulation installation, flooring, etc. This process has allowed us to save our homeowners a combined amount of $2,000,000 in construction costs over the four years that PNOLA has existed.
This year, our goal is to help 45 families return home. Winning this contest will help us finance the many expenses that are necessary for the survival of the program, but aren't the homeowners' responsibility, including:
- Safety Equipment : Gloves, goggles, and masks to keep our volunteers safe.
- Tools so that we and our volunteers can work effectively and efficiently
- Fuel and repair costs for our vehicles, which are used to transport volunteers and supplies to and from work sites.
- Utilities and repair costs for housing our volunteers
- Gap funding to help pay for the extras that our homeowners may not be able to afford, such as hurricane straps for their roofs or upgrading to energy efficient windows.
- Welcome home presents given to our homeowners at the Welcome Home Party that we throw for them at the completion of their home!
Every $10 that you donate to PNOLA is stretched into $100 worth in savings for our homeowners, so please don't hesitate to give in small amounts. Every little bit helps!
The video above is of a playground build that we recently participated in. Moments like these are what keeps us working!