Brad Pitt, Volunteers & the Ongoing Hurricane Katrina Recovery Efforts

#BlogTourNola hosted by @Modenus from April 16-20 in New Orleans was not just about treating a group of design bloggers to a good ol’ time.  We had the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible people who have taken it upon themselves to rebuild their own communities.  This is the second in a trilogy of posts.

by Cynthia Bogart

Gentilly – Before & After Hurricane Katrina

Gentilly, once a sleepy little neighborhood on the outskirts of New Orleans proper, was struck by the ravages of Hurricane Katrina when the 100 year old levees that held back the adjacent canal gave way in two spots turning this town into a lake .



gentilly 2

Parts of Gentilly have been restored to its former glory

Eight years later, it is only 65% restored.  People are still displaced and homeowners are still trying to rebuild.  Some have left, but others have not given up the dream of returning home.

Photo by Infrogmation @ flickr

Gentilly after Hurricane Katrina
Photo by Infrogmation @ flickr

The true meaning of ‘neighbor’ applies to the people of this area.  Some have given up their full time jobs to become full time volunteers; others work their day job, work on their neighbors homes at night – yet their own homes are still uninhabitable.  When hurricanes Isaac and Sandy hit, the first thing they did was to pay it forward – they redirected donations and aid to those areas away from their own needs.  They don’t grow people like this just anywhere – this is one special community.



Gentilly was flooded when the 100 year old London Avenue Canal was breached in two places during Hurricane Katrina. Approximately 275,000 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed in Louisana

So what happened – wasn’t there a huge Katrina relief fund and rebuilding effort?  Yes.  But two things happened.  First, many contractors acted much like the carpetbaggers of the post Civil War period.  They took advantage of the downtrodden. They took the homeowners money and did not deliver on reconstruction promises.  The second reason was time.  Time passed by and Katrina became a distant memory.



Director of the Homecoming Center, Connie Uddo was one of those who did not forget.  She quit her full time job to work for the recovery of her neighborhood.  Her home was not ravaged as badly by the flood waters but so many of her neighbors’ homes were. Through the structure of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, she and others were able to establish the Homecoming Center, a place where homeowners could find rebuilding help and where volunteers could find homeowners to help.


They have come such a long way but still have miles to go.   World Visions Programs, an organization dedicated to helping children and those in need in the United States, has been able to donate building supplies for homeowners. Other companies like Alaska Airlines, Hershey’s Chocolate and Goldman-Sachs have had groups of volunteers go down to help – and at this point, that is what they are needing. Volunteers.

Here is how you or your company can volunteer.


Brad Pitt’s Ninth Ward – Make It Right

Brad Pitt’s initiative of rebuilding the Ninth Ward, Make it Right movement has garnered much attention.  Totally opposite in architecture from Gentilly, Pitt’s main goal was to build affordable, healthy homes from the ground up according to Leed Platinum certifications and inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking.  Architects from all over the world entered a competition to be selected to contribute to this modern effort such as Frank Gehry, Morphosis, Adjaye Associates and Concordia. Half way complete, Make it Right is moving forward to help bring back the neighbors to their original neighborhood.



Sharing the Knowledge

Make it Right has learned so much in this process that they’ve created online resources to share –  the Library and Laboratory.

The materials we use, our construction methods, lessons learned, recent discoveries and data are now available to homeowners, designers, builders and anyone who is interested in learning more. Below is a list of some of the topics you can explore in Make It Right’s Library and Laboratory:


Volunteer in New Orleans
new orleans-team-building

Here is a suggestion on how you can help. Pack up the kids and plan a vacation in New Orleans.  The sites are great, the food amazing and there is so much JAZZ!!!!  Give the rebuilding group of your choice a call and put a couple of days aside for sightseeing then spend the rest of the week volunteering during the day to help rebuild homes.  At night – hit the town. This is a great way to give back and to teach your family what community and volunteerism is all about.


Homecoming Center- contact information to Volunteer

Make it Right

New Orleans online

The companies that made this @Modenus hosted trip possible for us were KBIS (The Kitchen & Bath International Show), Mr. Steam, Silestone by Cosentino, Poggenpohl, Blanco, DuVerre Hardware, The National Kitchen & Bath Association and Toto. Not only did they roll out the red carpet, but they engaged with us all along the way. We got to know them intimately and I, for one, walked away with a profound amount of awe and appreciation for what they have accomplished with their companies.


You might also like:  New Orleans’ Garden District, Miles Redd and BlogTourNola!


Share this!

Subscribe to our RSS feed. Tweet this! StumbleUpon Reddit Digg This! Bookmark on Delicious Share on Facebook