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The Chronicle of Philanthropy

A Decade Later, New Orleans Nonprofits Cite Gains, Yet Worry Over the Future

Melissa Sawyer founded the Youth Empowerment Project in 2004 in 1,200 square feet of rented space in Central City, a poor black neighborhood a mile southwest of the French Quarter. Her budget was $235,000, a combination of local grants and a state contract to help 25 young people caught up in the criminal-justice system.

Today, the nonprofit has a $3.5-million operating budget. It owns its headquarters on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, a resurgent commercial corridor, and serves up to 800 youths annually, providing education, and job- and life-skills programs.

The accelerant was a burst of philanthropic dollars in New Orleans in the years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared through, overwhelmed the levee system, and caused catastrophic flooding.

"We have grown so much over the last 11 years," Ms. Sawyer says. "Quite frankly, I don’t know where we would have been if Katrina hadn’t happened."

10 Years After the Storm: Has New Orleans Learned the Lessons of Hurricane Katrina?

Special report: A decade after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, David Uberti goes in search of the people who were at the heart of its recovery, to understand what the city has gone through – and where it might be heading


The Guardian

David Uberti in New Orleans

Monday 27 July 2015 01.00 EDT


Maggie Carroll couldn’t sleep – not after what she had read earlier in the day. It was 11 January 2006, four months after the deadly floods triggered by Hurricane Katrina had swallowed many of New Orleans’ neighbourhoods.

Carroll and her husband were among the first to return after the storm and take stock of theirs, Broadmoor, a low-lying area whose raised bungalows and colourful shotgun houses had been inundated by up to 10 feet of water. The Carrolls’ home on Walmsley Avenue had been left structurally sound; its wood floors didn’t buckle. Still, the water had picked up pieces of furniture, carried them across rooms and left them ruined. It broke up the back deck and crushed the garage door, before submerging Maggie’s grandfather’s 1963 Chevy.

Renting an apartment off Magazine Street, a short drive away, for $1,300 a month, the Carrolls faced days filled with uncertainty. Then, on 11 January, thefront-page story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune gave them yet another jolt. A mayoral-appointed Bring New Orleans Back Commission had sketched out a planit hoped would open the tap of federal aid. Crafted by a team of outside consultants, the blueprint suggested concentrating redevelopment on the city’s higher, less-flood-prone ground.


Levee Education Park Opens in Gentilly

Levee Education Park opens

Jasmine Haralson, Sandy Rosenthal, Carmen Owens, Jim Singleton, Nick Harris and others cut the ribbon for the Levee Education Park and Museum at 5000 Warrington Drive in Gentilly.
By Denise Walter McConduit, Gentilly columnist  on July 15, 2015 at 8:03 AM, updated July 15, 2015 at 8:04 AM

A ribbon cutting for Levee Education Park, at the site of the Hurricane Katrina levee breach in Filmore Gardens in Gentilly, was held July 11. The site is at 5000 Warrington Drive.

The event was sponsored by Levees.org in partnership with neighborhood residents, Growing Green, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and Parkway Partners. Local residents were invited to see the 100-foot long covered exhibition hall that houses six 8-foot brightly colored exhibit boards. Text and 40 large photographs tell the story and myths regarding New Orleans' flooding during Katrina in 2005.

An exhibit hall serveas as a memorial to the trauma of the flood, which was a pivotal moment in American history, and a symbol of the residents' resilience and determination to return home.


Common Ground Relief provides plants and volunteers for wetlands restoration

By Sheila Stroup, The Times-Picayune 

on July 25, 2015 at 8:29 AM


David Stoughton looks out at the expanse of Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge and smiles. We are watching volunteers plant green ash and willow saplings in the marshy soil not far from the entrance off U.S. 90 in eastern New Orleans.

"Volunteers are integral to everything we do," he says. "A project of this scope -- we'd never be able to do it without them."

Stoughton is a supervisory park ranger with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the volunteers are replacing trees that died after Hurricane Katrina.

"The water sat here after Katrina, and the salt in it killed a lot of the hardwood trees," he says. "What we're doing is restoring what was once historically here. It's the beginning of a larger effort to restore the maritime forest."

The volunteers include French engineering students and teenagers from around the country attending a summer service camp in New Orleans. They are here because of Common Ground Relief's wetlands restoration project.

"To have a partner like Common Ground is super-important," Stoughton says. "They're donating over $10,000 worth of trees. That's a huge amount of resources they're contributing to the project."


New Gentilly Exhibit Details Levee Failures That Flooded New Orleans in 2005

Breach site houses memorial, garden


Richard Tatum knew this section of the London Avenue Canal levee as a child decades ago.

“I caught my first fish right here,” he said as he gazed at the site of a key breach in the city’s levee system during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Shoddy workmanship and poor engineering led to numerous such breaches in levees and floodwalls. As a result, 80 percent of New Orleans and all of St. Bernard Parish ended up underwater.


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