Monday, June 25, 2012

New Orleans Still Has Not Healed

This is a guest post by Lindsay Levin, an SBP volunteer and a small business owner and Kindermusik educator in Northern California.

On a recent trip to New Orleans, my best friend and I decided to visit the homes affected by Katrina. We worked with St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit that has rebuilt over 435 homes in the Greater New Orleans area. For my friend, a full-time philanthropist, our visit served as yet another passionate and energetic endeavor to give back. For me, an exhausted business owner, our visit was an opportunity to see if I could rise above the numbing sense of helplessness brought about by the sheer magnitude of the disaster long enough to make a difference.

We drove up to the home of Allan Francis and met his case manager, Sister Frances. At first glance, the house seemed abandoned – another deserted victim of the storm. The windows were boarded up; the house lacked insulation, paint, and even floorboards. This house is $42,000 away from being completely finished, allowing his household of three hard-working adults and two small children to live in a place they can call home.

Mr. Francis is a New Orleans native who spent much of his youth supporting and caring for his younger siblings, Chevelle, 21, and Cherelle, 18. Despite the setbacks of growing up in a tumultuous home and spending his young adulthood displaced by Katrina, Mr. Francis has always had a job and passed along his work ethic to his younger sisters, both of whom are gainfully employed. Earning minimum wage salaries, Mr. Francis and his sisters managed to save over $5,000 to purchase this home last July. Without Allan's purchase, the home would most likely have been auctioned off or demolished.

Mr. Francis salvaged and refinished the house's beautiful front door, fixed the fence in the back yard, and invested time and money into electrical and plumbing for the house. "[Finishing this home] would mean so much," says Mr. Francis. "It would mean giving my little nieces a stable place to grow up, not like me and my sisters." Mr. Francis is still scrimping and saving to help make his dream a reality. "People [in this neighborhood] are working and really trying. Since I purchased the house in July of last year, I've been saving, living paycheck to paycheck. Me and my sisters have been putting every dime into this project."

The house is a symbol for the quietly fighting spirit of the Francis family, and we realized we could help make this rebuild complete. I pledged the first $100, and Anna volunteered to donate $2,000. That leaves $39,900 needed for building supplies to get Mr. Francis and his family home. You can help, too!

Volunteers from around the country enthusiastically await the opportunity to rebuild homes like Mr. Francis’, but St. Bernard Project needs to raise the funds first. Join us in helping rebuild homes and lives by donating to SBP. Until all of the families are home in New Orleans, the city’s social fabric will not be healed. Please email Ashley Bellant or call 504-277-6831 for more information about how you can help SBP bring families like Mr. Francis’ home!