Wednesday, June 03, 2009

New Orleans ecumenical blitz build wins award.

Paint is barely dry on the homes it helped rebuild in the New Orleans neighborhood of Little Woods, but already the "Neighborhood: New Orleans" project has garnered a national award for New York-based humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS). The project recently carried out a four-week ecumenical "blitz build" to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, contributed to by Brethren Disaster Ministries staff and volunteers.

National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster chose to honor Neighborhood: New Orleans with its 2009 Innovative Program of the Year Award, presented at the National VOAD annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

National VOAD is a coalition of nonprofit organizations that respond to disasters as part of their overall mission. "We are deeply honored to be selected by our peers for this outstanding award," CWS Emergency Response director Donna Derr said. "To be honored for this project in its first-ever installment reaffirms our philosophy that working together we accomplish more."

Neighborhood: New Orleans was the first national ecumenical volunteer effort in New Orleans, using revolving teams from 10 different member agencies of CWS, working side by side. More than 500 people from 27 US states and Canada came to New Orleans as volunteers with

one of the project partners: Brethren Disaster Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Lutheran Disaster Response, Mennonite Disaster Service, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America Global Mission, the United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Committee on Relief.

CWS worked with its local partner, the Crescent Alliance Recovery Effort (CARE) to identify a neighborhood in New Orleans where recovery from Hurricane Katrina has been sparse. "We wanted to work in an area where, by working together under one banner, we could return families home and accelerate a whole neighborhood’s recovery," Derr said.

A neighborhood of mixed incomes and races, Little Woods began as a fishing camp along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Hurricane Katrina forced water into the neighborhood, where it sat, as high as the roofline, for days. The water eventually drained, and families have recovered intermittently ever since. Some homeowners are waiting on assistance to come through Louisiana’s labyrinthine Road Home program. Others are in dispute with insurers or federal agencies. More than a few find themselves like Gloria Mouton, who was defrauded out of most of her recovery funds by unscrupulous contractors.

On May 13, Mouton, a grandmother and community volunteer, was led into her nearly-rebuilt home by a New Orleans brass band and a parade of dignitaries and volunteers celebrating the project.

"It’s a beautiful thing to know that these people in the world will give from their busy schedules to help someone like me," Mouton said. "It just sends a warm feeling in my body every time I walk into this house and see the progress they made."

-- This article is taken from Church World Service releases by Matt Hackworth, Lesley Crosson, and Jan Dragin.

Source: 6/3/2009 Newsline

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