New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity Celebrates Eight Years of Partnership with Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans

July 14, 2013

NOAHH commemorates successful partnership with RHINO.

New Orleans, LA (PRWEB) July 14, 2013

Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans (RHINO) and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) formed a partnership eight years ago that has become one of the most consistent and long lasting volunteer partnerships that NOAHH formed after Hurricane Katrina. As part of our 30th anniversary, NOAHH is recognizing the achievements and commitment of our partner organization.

RHINO began in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures as part of the commitment St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church (SCAPC) had for the city. With over 100 years of service in the city, SCAPC's roots are deep in the New Orleans community. In the aftermath of the storm, the church knew it had to find a way to help the city rebuild, as they put it, physically and spiritually, and they had many people contacting them to find out how they could help.

What they offered was hospitality, shelter, meals, and guidance and organization. Churches from across the nation were calling to help. Soon hundreds of volunteers were arriving to help out as RHINO started their coordinating operations.

Because the infrastructure was not in place to build homes just after the storm, the nonprofit group started out gutting houses. Within a year, however, RHINO and NOAHH had formed a partnership.

"Hardly a week goes by that we don't have some RHINO volunteers helping us out on site," said Jim Pate, executive director of NOAHH. "The consistency of their presence is something we don't take for granted. Their dedication is more than we could have asked for, and we can't thank them enough for that."

Between September and June, RHINO volunteers can be found on Habitat homes in New Orleans, and during the summer months, when possible, attendees of Camp RHINO can sometimes be found on site. Their dedication to rebuilding the city has grown and adjusted with NOAHH's, and over the years, this partnership has produced seven sponsored homes, 29 homes built, 6,000 volunteers from over 30 states, and an entire city block reinvigorated. Estimating conservatively, RHINO volunteers have worked at least 200,000 hours over the last 8 years.

Seeing the impact and potential of Musicians' Village, SCAPC Pastor Don Frampton wanted to make a similar contribution to the city's recovery. From this came the revitalization of Ferry Place, a single block street in the Leonidas/Pensiontown area of New Orleans, near Jefferson Parish, discovered by a pastor at SCAPC who was also a city planner. Before RHINO and NOAHH teamed up to build 14 homes there, the street was practically abandoned. Minor hiccups along the way delayed construction, but by 2007, work on the block had begun. Within two years, every home on the block was complete, the last home being finished by December of 2009.

Their commitment to the neighborhood did not end at Ferry Place. RHINO volunteers helped with almost every other Habitat home built in the neighborhood, and the church sponsored and built a community garden at a local school. The whole neighborhood became a focus of RHINO’s efforts, and many who work for RHINO live there. According to Kate Snider, former program director at RHINO, "It was so rewarding for our volunteers to return year after year and see the progress not only of Ferry Place but also in other parts of the neighborhood. It created a sense of investment, kept people connected, and gave a sense of needing to return."

RHINO volunteers leave the city a little better than it was before they came, and they leave the city a little better than they were before they came. Between the connections they make here and the skills they learn, they gain something on every visit. The bonds RHINO and NOAHH have formed have engendered this long term, mutually beneficial growth.

"Every time I go to work with RHINO and Habitat, I leave loving New Orleans a little more, and knowing that my work has made a difference," said Rachel Martin, an eight time RHINO volunteer. "I have helped build many new houses, I have learned new skills, I have rebuilt some hope, and because of me, one day, one more family is going to have a place to call home."

And that personal growth here in New Orleans inevitably ends up benefitting the communities the volunteers come from.

"Some of the greatest testimonies to come out of the RHINO program are the stories of how people who have come down to volunteer return home and apply the same spirit to their own communities," Snider said. "We have a volunteer from Seattle who now works on the Wednesday crew with his local affiliate. And a church in Cary, NC, was so inspired by their work in New Orleans that they sponsored a build with their local affiliate."

RHINO has now expanded to taking trips to other disaster-affected areas, in what they have informally begun calling "reverse RHINO trips." Local New Orleanian members give back to communities around the nation by helping them recover in the same way so many volunteers have come here to help us recover.

Along with expanding to include these trips, RHINO is expanding locally as well, finding other ways to help in the city. According to Avery Strada, RHINO won't stop with merely addressing housing issues. "Hurricane Katrina brought to light other issues: homelessness, poverty, crime education. It's all on the surface. With RHINO's other community partners, we can rebuild hope in completely different ways."

"My favorite quote is from a video we took," Strada said, describing a comment that inspired her. "He said, 'We've done so much, and we've come so far as a city that we can't stop. New Orleans needs us to fully recover. Why would we ever stop now?'"

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, an independent affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. NOAHH builds new houses in partnership with sponsors, volunteers, communities, and homeowner families to eliminate poverty housing in the New Orleans area while serving as a catalyst to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Since its inception in 1983 NOAHH has built 704 homes for low-income families in need of adequate shelter. NOAHH plans to continue to build homes in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Plaquemines Parishes.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/7/prweb10924376.htm

Source: prweb

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