Friday, December 30, 2011

One last 2011 appeal to help us bring families home

As we move closer to ringing in the New Year this weekend, SBP is looking back at 2011 and working hard to prepare for 2012. We’ve had a great year!

With your support, we’ve expanded programs, boosted our capacity, and started exciting new ventures. By then end of the year, SBP will have rebuilt 420 homes in the New Orleans area. To the right are photos of several of the more than 80 families that were able to return home this year with the help of SBP supporters and volunteers.

The combined efforts of more than 10,000 volunteers helped us rebuild in 2011. And thanks to our partnership with Toyota and our hard-working staff, our re-designed and more efficient construction system will make 2012 a record year.

But despite all our successes, the needs sadly endure in New Orleans. As one of the last remaining rebuilding organizations, we currently have just over 130 clients on our waiting list. They are young, old, veterans, families with children or grandchildren—in short, they are just like you and me.

SBP has a goal for this holiday season: to raise $350,000 to fund building costs for 20 families in 2012. Your support is truly critical and has a direct impact on families still trying to return home six years after the storm. Please consider donating to help us reach our goal!

Thank you for all that you have done
to make our successes possible!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Days of Our Lives Helps Homeowner Go Home for the Holidays

In an incredible partnership over the last year, the cast and crew of Days of Our Lives worked with SBP to fundraise and rebuild homes in New Orleans. The show raised over $20,000 in 2011 to help sponsor the rebuild of Sharon Taylor-Rachal’s home in New Orleans East.

Days cast surprises Sharon in March
Several members of the cast and crew of Days of Our Lives volunteered with SBP in late March 2011 on the home of long-time Certified Nursing Assistant Brenda Harris. They also surprised Patricia Gardner and her family in Gentilly during her Welcome Home celebration by donating furnishings for her entire home. During their trip, they also surprised a grateful and ecstatic Sharon with the news that they would fund the rebuilding of her home (above).

James Scott, Sharon, and Ari Zucker
Just before Christmas, two stars of the show returned to visit the homeowner whose rebuild they funded. After a day spent hanging drywall on another rebuild site, Days stars Ari Zucker and James Scott spent several hours with Sharon and her family and saw the completed home they had helped fund (right). For more on the visit by Ari and James to see Sharon and her home, read this fantastic piece by Mary Rickard of the New Orleans Times Picayune. SBP and Days of Our Lives will collaborate in the coming months to bring home another New Orleans family home in 2012--stay tuned for more details.

Here is a video of Sharon thanking SBP staff, volunteers, and Days of Our Lives for their help in her journey home, which was also facilitated by the United Way. Thank you to all of our supporters for helping us bring more than 75 families home for the holidays in 2011!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A holiday surprise from a group of SBP volunteers...

We hope you're having a lovely holiday season, and we wanted to share a special surprise from a great group of volunteers from Northwestern University:

Thank you to the Asterik A Capella group for volunteering both their time and their voices to SBP! And to all our supporters: you have all been so important to our efforts to bring families home in New Orleans over the past year, and we couldn't do it without you! Happy holidays and a heartfelt thank you from the entire team at SBP!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Liz and Zack at CNN Heroes 2011

An update from Liz on CNN Heroes 2011:

On Sunday night Zack and I attended CNN Heroes in Los Angeles. It was a star-studded affair attended by Ice Cube, Jerry Seinfeld, Christy Turlington, AnnaLynne McCord and many more. But despite the many celebrities there, the Hero nominees stole the show. Their selfless acts of kindness were deeply inspiring (The show should be sponsored by Kleenex!). They are ordinary people doing truly extraordinary work around the globe.

While there were many heart-warming stories being told, I was especially moved by Taryn Davis, founder of the American Widow Project (at left with Zack). Taryn founded the organization after her husband, an Army corporal, was killed in Iraq. Feeling like she had had nowhere to turn, Taryn reached out to fellow widows and the Project was born. We met Taryn in April 2011 when she brought a dozen widows to volunteer at SBP. For a weekend these women worked tirelessly drywalling and sanding Ms. Tanya Scott's house in Gentilly. The sweat, tears and laughter from the weekend of service seemed to further strengthen and heal them.

The 2011 Hero of the Year is Robin Lim, an American midwife living in Bali, Indonesia. Her clinic has delivered over 4,000 babies and provided maternal and child health care for thousands of residents. As the daughter of a midwife, I know how hard these women work. Congrats Robin!

Every year, returning to CNN Heroes gives me a chance to reflect on the tremendous impact that being recognized by Heroes has had on SBP and our clients. The show brought the challenges families in New Orleans faced into the homes of millions of viewers. And many responded heroically—they helped. Thank you for supporting SBP and helping us rebuild the homes and lives of thousands of residents in New Orleans and now Joplin, where we recently opened an office. Your support, donations, and volunteer hours have truly made an enormous difference.

More news soon from Washington, DC where Zack and I just visited the White House for the holidays...

Right: Liz and Zack with Kate Flannery from NBC's The Office!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Orleans Saints Player Roman Harper Visits SBP Family!

Last Tuesday, New Orleans Saints player Roman Harper came out to visit the Julien family, whose Lower Ninth Ward home he is helping SBP rebuild. Homeowner Yolanda Julien greeted Harper with her two youngest children, eleven-year-old Justin and eight-year-old Janiel. Several neighbors, a film crew, the Times Picayune, volunteers from Olivet College and Lindsey Wilson College, and a number of St. Bernard Project team members (yours truly) were all in attendance. Harper is funding Yolanda’s house in partnership with United Way and SBP and wanted to see the construction progress made so far.

Before the storm, single mother Yolanda raised her three children while working at a local hospital. They couldn't afford to leave during Katrina and were trapped at their house as floodwaters rose before eventually being rescued by helicopter. The family has been trying ever since to rebuild. Now with the help of the Saints, United Way, and SBP, Yolanda is realizing her dream to go home.

Harper’s visit took place as part of the Hope for the Holidays campaign, a collaboration between several Saints players, the United Way, Phoenix of New Orleans, and SBP. The campaign is raising funds to bring more families home during the holiday season and to raise awareness about the enduring need in New Orleans. Hope for the Holidays began last year with Harper and former Saints player Darren Sharper sponsoring the rebuilding of two families’ homes. This year’s campaign to bring another three families home kicked off on September 25th with Harper and Sharper now joined by three other Saints players: Jahri Evans, Malcolm Jenkins, and Lance Moore.

As the day wound down our SBP AmeriCorps member and site supervisor, Leisl Soergel, orchestrated final construction activities and clean-up. Student volunteers scrambled to tidy up, while the crowd waited and chatted in the unusually warm December evening. Harper arrived just after sunset…

And was immediately set upon by the crowd. But little Janiel won. She grabbed Harper by the hand and led him in the house, excitedly pointing at each room saying, “This is where my brother’s going to sleep. That’s going to be the living room. And this is going to be my room!” Harper asked her if she was going to decorate it. Janiel explained that her room would have a Justin Bieber theme. Someone suggested that the front room be made into a “Saints Room,” and Harper laughingly supported the idea.

After the tour, Harper did a brief interview with the film crew – the video will be aired this Friday during the Gala celebrating the Hope for the Holidays campaign, and possibly at other Saints events later in the season as well. He spoke with and signed autographs for volunteers. Toward the end of the evening, Justin Julien, timidly at first, and then with more insistence, began asking challenging questions about football technique. Finally, Harper and the Juliens thanked the volunteers and each other, for the others generosity and for the opportunity to help rebuild our city.

About an hour after he arrived, Roman Harper left for another campaign event, and the crowd followed. The last people at the site were Leisl and her team of volunteers, cleaning up for tomorrow’s work day.

--Sam, SBP Development Department

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Welcome Home to Tanya Scott!

SBP staff and volunteers were so excited to welcome home an inspiring homeowner yesterday! Tanya Scott is home, six years after Katrina, and she is very excited to be able to put up her first Christmas tree since the storm. Tanya was a licensed practical nurse before the storm, but due to health complications she experienced while living in a FEMA trailer, she is no longer able to work full-time. Her joy at finally being home, though, was clear, and she thanks SBP and the volunteers who helped her come home just in time for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Relaunched SBP Blog Coming Soon!

Stay tuned here--we are working on some great updates to share with you as we relaunch the St. Bernard Project blog! We're excited to share our stories with you and hope you'll follow our updates, which should be posted at least once a week beginning this December.

We apologize for the long delay in updates to the blog after our website transition. Starting tomorrow, Thursday December 8, we will begin posting great content that will give you a better idea about what happens at SBP on a day-to-day basis. We'll have the perspective of a veteran on staff from New Orleans who went through the Katrina rebuilding process himself, photographs and updates from site supervisors at home rebuilds across the city, stories from co-founders Zack and Liz from exciting events like an upcoming White House Christmas party, and much, much more!

Let us know what you'd like to see on our blog, and we'll work to make it happen. We want you to be a part of our blog, and your feedback will help us do just that!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Under Construction

We've been under construction for some time reformatting and preparing for the launch of our new website. Get ready for more of the stories you love and insight from the field to keep you up to date with the happenings here in New Orleans. Thanks for hanging in there with us!