By Christina Ghubril
Rebuilding Together is a nation-wide organization that believes every person should have a safe and healthy home to live in. With over 200 affiliates, Rebuilding Together provides free home repair and rehabilitation to low-income homeowners across America. Rebuilding Together New Orleans is currently the largest affiliate of the organization.
Rebuilding Together has been in New Orleans for many years and used to operate on the same level as most Rebuilding Together locations. Focusing on several homes and families a year with a small staff, they worked to meet the needs of the homeowners they could focus on. However, when Katrina hit, it was apparent that there was much work to be done. Rebuilding Together was one of the organizations that recognized the severity of NoLA’s needs post-Katrina and stepped in to offer their services. Over the last few years they have grown exponentially and with the help of a larger staff, Americore workers and volunteers from around the nation, they are able to serve several hundred homes a year.
One of the defining components of Rebuilding Together is their history of renewable, energy efficient and “green” practices as they service homes around the nation. In New Orleans, an effort has been made to refurbish existing structures in order to maintain the historic architecture that has defined New Orleans homes for so long. If a structure is torn down, it is done so in a way that makes reusing elements of the original building a possibility. Along with their home repair efforts, Rebuilding Together New Orleans has opened a warehouse that sells used, usable parts for members of the community to purchase at reasonable prices. Doors, wood panels, old fashioned bathtubs and light fixtures not only provide an earth-friendly way to upgrade your home but also bring interesting textures, colors and histories with them, making them fantastic choices to add a little flair to your living room!
When we first arrived we met with Rebuilding Together New Orleans’ Program Manager, John. Upon graduation from college, John moved to New Orleans as an Americore worker, offering his time to Rebuilding Together. Several years later, he remains a partner of Rebuilding Together and has become an integral part of the work that goes on there, organizing projects and helping to facilitate efforts going on within the community.
Rebuilding Together New Orleans has sustained itself on the generosity of volunteers from around the nation who come spend a week, a month, a summer assisting in the city’s home repair needs. While we were there, college students were spending their spring breaks serving the New Orleans community. A fear of the organization is that the farther away Katrina becomes, the less volunteers will be interested in coming to New Orleans. The need remains great and with the current financial crisis, it is a challenging time for many families and homeowners in New Orleans. Volunteering with Rebuilding Together is a wonderful way to get to know the New Orleans community outside of the tourist center and to support our neighbors making efforts to rebuild their communities!