We Build Communities. Strong, Safe, Sustainable.
We help build homes and community projects for people and neighborhoods in need. We've built a system and an organization that puts your dollar to work directly into great projects, bypassing red tape while maintaining high quality outcomes. We inspire our clients and their neighbors to rise up and rebuild alongside us. With your donation we can turn once blighted communities - dangerous, depressing and unhealthy - into bright thriving safe areas for working class citizens and families that strive to give back and help build a better stronger city. For more information about PNOLA please click here.
She Never Stopped Trying to Get Home
In 1988, Mary Rush and her husband purchased the modest home on S. Gayoso St. in Mid-Town, New Orleans with dreams of retiring in it. When Katrina struck on August 29th, 2005 it left much of the Greater New Orleans area under water. Over 100,000 people and thousands of homes were destroyed including Mrs. Mary’s dream home. During the storm, she was at Touro Hospital at her sick husband’s bedside. Due to the flooding in the city in the storm’s aftermath, she was stranded at the hospital along with many families and patients. The hurricane rendered the hospital without power and Mary’s husband was air lifted to Houston. In all the commotion she was not given any information as to where he was taken. It took her over two weeks to finally find him. They were finally reunited in Texas and had just two short weeks together before he passed away.
Upon returning to New Orleans, Mrs. Mary applied for money to renovate her home through the Road Home Program. Misfortune struck again when all the money that she received was swindled by a fraudulent contractor who saw her as easy prey, leaving her with nothing except a destroyed home and a meager income. But Mary didn’t give up hope. She was a woman of amazing faith and she prayed everyday that God would find a way for her to get back home.
In 2009, Mary Rush first came in contact with Phoenix of New Orleans (PNOLA) through her pastor at First Pentecostal Church. He was eager to find help for one of his most devoted parishioners. Mary gave back by volunteering at a local school. She also helped her daughter Sabrina, who is in the Army, raise three children.
During the time that PNOLA was rebuilding her home, Mrs. Mary’s journey took another unlucky turn. About halfway through the remodel Mary went into the hospital for several weeks. When she was finally released Mary was paralyzed from the waist down. With a new life to adjust to Mary moved to Mississippi with her daughter, Sabrina. Despite this new setback Mrs. Mary was determined to get home.
In May 2012, Sabrina brought her mother back to New Orleans to begin moving her things in and take a tour of the newly renovated home. During the tour Mrs. Mary suffered a heart attack and was whisked away to the hospital by ambulance. Finally, she was able to go home for good on June 10th, 2012. She was greeted by the members of the New Orleans Saints, the United Way and staff and volunteers from Phoenix of New Orleans.
Mary thanks God and is beyond grateful to Jahri Evans of the New Orleans Saints, who help fund the rebuild along with the United Way and its Hope for the Holidays Program, and the relentless work that PNOLA and its volunteers did to get her home. One of the toughest women you will ever meet, Mary has survived her son, who passed away at the age of 29 to Huntington’s disease (only expected to live to be 10 years old, he wowed Doctors by graduating from high school and college and almost making it to his thirties), her husband and also Hurricane Katrina.
Mary Rush embodies the indomitable spirit and resilience that courses through the veins of the Crescent City. If someday you meet Mary you would never know all of the trials and tribulations she has been through because she lives her life blessed with the most beautiful smile you might ever see, and she is always wearing it.
Betty Longo - The Last FEMA Trailer Resident in New Orleans
For almost her entire life Elizabeth Longo lived in the raised single-shotgun home on Baudin Street. When she returned to New Orleans after the floods, she learned that her home was inundated with three feet of water and deemed unlivable. Structurally the house was sound, but due to storm damage it needed to be gutted completely and rebuilt.
Betty was one of the many displaced citizens who were provided with temporary housing in a FEMA trailer. A generous grant provided by the Road Home Program along with additional funding provided by the United Church of Christ and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana made it possible for Betty’s house to be completely remodeled.
Phoenix of New Orleans project managers, construction crews, and volunteers from all over the United States put in countless hours of hard work on Betty’s little home.
A group of nurses from New York helped Ms. Longo begin the long journey to get back home by helping her pack up the personal belongings she was able to salvage and take them to storage. A spirited bunch from Movember hung insulation and the crew from James Madison University of Virginia tore down what seemed like an endless amount of drywall. A congregation of persistent nuns learned to install complicated pieces of flooring knowing that they were rebuilding the life of a 72 year-old devout Catholic woman. Dedicated volunteers even worked over the Thanksgiving break. Sometimes it was so cold the crews huddled around a small space heater trying to get warm enough just to complete the tasks at hand. Every person who came to the house got caught up in the story behind its owner and the energy produced by the work, and when people left, they felt that overwhelming feeling of being part of something bigger than words.
Phoenix of New Orleans was proud to move the last New Orleans homeowner out of a FEMA trailer. The rebuild of Ms. Longo’s house closed a very large chapter in New Orleans’ big book of hurricane Katrina recovery, and we were proud to script the ending that included Ms. Longo returning home.
The profound impact of the rebuilding of Ms. Longo’s house and her return home will be carried in the memories of PNOLA staff and the volunteers who gave their all, long after the aches and calluses have faded away.
Thomas Marquez - SO Much Patience
During Hurricane Katrina Thomas Marquez was evacuated from New Orleans along with his mother and sisters. A little over a year after his family’s return back to the City, Thomas’ mother passed away. The home that his mother owned was left to Thomas and his sisters to rebuild and then figure out how it should be divided. Unfortunately, one of Thomas’ sisters spent the Road Home grant money they received and nothing was left to rebuild.
At the time of the Katrina, in 2005, Thomas was 63 years-old and disabled. He was homeless for a while after the storm, but was able to get temporary housing in an apartment thanks to the gracious help of Unity of Greater New Orleans.
Phoenix of New Orleans (PNOLA), backed by generous donation from the United Church of Christ, worked furiously to finish the project and bring Thomas back to his quaint home on Sere Street just in time for the holidays.
In Late 2011, right before the PNOLA staff closed shop for the holidays, our organization was able to throw a big welcome home celebration for Mr. Marquez. After six years, he was finally able to get home and celebrate Christmas where he celebrated almost every Christmas before Hurricane Katrina hit and devastated the city.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony Thomas’ face beamed, especially when it came time to cut the ‘Welcome Home’ ribbon. The grin on his face stretched from ear to ear as he grabbed the big prop scissors and snapped the ribbon that stretched across the front of his home. He was flanked on either side by volunteers, PNOLA staff, members of the United Church of Christ, the WDSU News team, representatives from Smucker’s®, and people from the United Way.
PNOLA believes that building homes for aspiring neighborhood leaders will create a network of positive residents that inspire others around them to improve the community in which they live. The best change comes from within the community, but sometimes teachers, artist, church leaders, young professionals or the neighborhood block captain need a stronger foundation from which to cultivate community improvement. PNOLA wants to build homes for aspiring leaders within the communities we serve. We also are raising a fund to support or serve low-income clients, elderly, veterans and victims of natural disasters such as Katrina and Isaac. Please consider supporting our leadership fund or our distressed client fund and sponsor a persons future.
PNOLA wants every affordable and mid-grade home to be built with sustainable, green, energy efficient standards that is disaster proof, maintains cultural and historic elements, is built as a long-term low cost energy environment, and is a healthy environment for disabled or ill clients. It's important that homes that are built strong to keep their value and last for multiple generations. It's this dedication to quality and affordability that will attract any homeowner to PNOLA's work and which separates PNOLA from the rest of the organizations and contractors doing similar work.
Together, PNOLA will build a network of leaders with better overall housing standards that ultimately creates a stronger, safer and more sustainable community. With that central strength and positive direction for improvement, we hope to induce a long-term economic and physical prosperity for the areas we serve. We also step in and provide countless hours of service for kids fairs, school improvement projects, Kaboom Playground builds, commercial corridor trash bin installments, city park clean up and helping support neighborhood programs. Please consider supporting PNOLA and help build a more prosperous community in New Orleans and beyond!
Lisa K. Hodge