11 Months and 13 Houses, Goodbye PNOLA!

Today is my last day working for Phoenix of New Orleans. Since I started working here 11 months ago, the organization has completed 13 houses. Somehow as Case Intake Manager I managed to have at least a small part of 12 of those houses.  Whether it be helping the homeowners to enroll in our Direct Assistance Program or apply for funding, doing initial house assessments, preparing estimates, going to City Hall to pull permits or schedule inspections, sending progress reports to grant funders, answering questions for homeowners or relaying their requests to the site managers, talking through how to handle a situation with Jim C., coordinating volunteers or helping project managers with paper work, advocating for homeowners at FEMA meetings or going to bat for them at code enforcement hearings.  I didn't swing one hammer in these 11 months but, I'm proud of the contribution I was able to make to the rebuilding of these 12 homes.

The house and homeowner I am most attached to is 1855 N. Rocheblave and Lyle Leduff.  And as I leave at the end of this day, his house is still not fully complete.  We were able to complete about 95% of the house and I have faith that it will be completed within the next couple of months by those remaining at PNOLA and the new staff starting in September.  My proudest moment of being apart of this organization was the day that Lyle and his wife were able to move out of their FEMA trailer and into the downstairs apartment, which we completed about a month ago.  It was a symbolic day that ended a very hard chapter in their lives.  I'm very happy to know that in a couple of months they will be able to move into the upstairs of their beautiful home and start renting out the downstairs apartment.  For once, after 6 long years, they will have the chance to feel stable again.

PNOLA site leaders Will F., Chris G. and Jen B. have done an amazing job in the field this year.  I have been continually impressed by the amount of work that this crew has lead volunteers to complete. PNOLA is by no means a wealthy organization and these guys have had to make do with often times humble resources.  Which makes the work that they have done even MORE respected!  Each one of them has a big heart and have made our homeowners extremely happy over the course of the year.  These guys are the face of PNOLA, working out in the community.  Many times I've gotten phone calls from neighbors who have met them and wanted to know how they could get help for themselves or a family member.

Jim MacQueen, Heidi and Phoenix (yes, we have a Phoenix at Phoenix of New Orleans) came in here this Spring and brought new life to the organization.  Jim M. is the new Director of Operations with Heidi and Phoenix as Project Managers.  They also brought along their dogs, the official PNOLA Volunteer Greeters, Coco and Clyde.  In the few months that they have been apart of the organization we have become a more efficient, cohesive and organized group and they have only helped to enhance the work that the organization is doing.

Working at PNOLA has been such a wonderful experience not because I love doing a plethora of unrelated tasks, or because I love going to City Hall, or going to meetings, or taking notes at meetings, or because I've learned so much about residential construction or project management or because I got to meet some famous football players.  It's been a wonderful experience because of all of the people that I've had the chance to meet.  The hundreds of volunteers, the dozens of homeowners, the PNOLA staff, the United Way staff and the staff from other community organizations that have helped PNOLA along the way, have all been wonderful!  I've heard a hundred sad stories this year, each one a little different but, mostly the same.  Katrina was only a catalyst to the heartache that most of our homeowners have endured.  Against a backdrop of fraud, theft, miscommunication, broken promises, missed opportunities, let downs, and straight up lies I've continually been amazed to see still the very best of people.  Our homeowners and volunteers have shown me both what resiliency and generosity looks like.  And that's what I will always remember about working in New Orleans, rather working for New Orleans.

The pictures below are a very small sample of what PNOLA has done this year.  Enjoy and please check out our Flicker page if you want to see more!!  http://www.flickr.com/photos/56002208@N05

1855 N. Rocheblave Before

1855 N. Rocheblave After

2469 Gladiolus Before

2469 Gladiolus After

Homecoming celebration.

1520 Pauline Before

1520 Pauline After

House sponsors Saints players Roman Harper and Darren Sharper.

Homecoming celebration.

2010-11 PNOLA Staff 

 Me, homeowner Serg. Johnson and our fearless leader and Executive Director, Jim C. at 1520 Pauline.

House sponsor Saints player #41 Roman Harper, Jim C. and Jen B. at 2469 Gladiolus.

Greg C. eating lunch.

Will F. and I leading a crew at this year's Warren Easton Kaboom build.

Chris G. leading a crew at the Warren Easton Kaboom build.

Jen B. working hard at 1520 Pauline.

Will F. working at 1855 N. Rocheblave.

Denise M., myself and Jen B. at Ms. Frank's homecoming celebration.

Jen and Will at Ms. Frank's homecoming celebration.

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