You probably already know that 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the terrible event and the damage it caused: nearly 80% of New Orleans was flooded, more than 200,000 homes or apartments were destroyed, and over 800,000 citizens were forced out of their homes.
Like many other New Orleans organizations, the Junior League of New Orleans suffered damage to its properties (including their nearly 90 year old thrift shop Bloomin’ Deals), as well as an immediate dispersal of many members unable to recommit to volunteer work because of their personal losses.
But how JLNO reacted in the months and years after Katrina is a testament to how Junior League training – and a deep commitment by members to their beloved city – became a key part of New Orleans’ renaissance over the last 10 years.
With roots in the greater New Orleans area dating to 1923, JLNO remained committed to its mission while helping to rebuild the physical structure of the community and helping to support nonprofit organizations in the community that struggled in the post-Katrina era. Here are some highlights:
- Nearly one year after the storm, JLNO President Liz Creel (2005-2006) put out a call at Annual Conference 2006 in Salt Lake City for “as many Junior League members as you can bring to us” for JLNO’s Rebuilding Together Week. That event, held over a nine-day period in the fall of 2006, mobilized over 1,000 volunteers from more than 70 Leagues in the U.S., Canada and the UK to rebuild homes and businesses, public parks and cemeteries, and assist with new construction. Projects included work on the new Musician’s Village and restoration efforts at Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restaurant, which has been called a “New Orleans fried chicken institution.” (Ms. Seaton died earlier this month at the age of 99. After the re-opening of the restaurant in 2007, she turned over the day-to-day operations to her great-granddaughter who went on to open a second location last year.)
- JLNO’s Get on Board program, started in 2008, provided training for new leaders of nonprofits, both old and new, bringing new blood to many organizations deeply involved in the reconstruction and revival effort. (The program was awarded AJLI’s Community Impact Award in 2012.)
- With JLNO’s Rebuilding Together program, begun in 1989, members went to work with some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens, helping to get the elderly and disabled and others back in their homes while also seeking to make their homes safe, beautiful and sustainable.
What’s also wonderful with the contributions of JLNO and its members to the revitalization of New Orleans is the way in which it all fits so well with the Junior League commitment to creating lasting community impact. With each home restored comes hope for a better neighborhood. On their own, and through partnerships with other organizations, JLNO continues to do so much to improve their community!