Rebuilding Together NOLA: Putting Homeless Veterans to Work

There has been so much horrific and crime overloaded news in New Orleans lately, time to stop and focus on the positive. As important and necessary as it is to fix those problems, it is time to take pause and recognize organizations around the city who strive to make a difference in our community. Backing things up to two years ago…I had the pleasure of being invited as media for Rebuilding Together New Orleans (RTNO) in partnership with Sears Heroes at Home. I have always been involved with the military and for one day of my media tour, I volunteered on a crew to help rebuild a Veteran’s fence. I was hooked and fell in love with this program that weekend!

Fast-forward to two years later, and the head of my crew that day, Robin Young, RTNO Volunteer and Events Manager, contacted me about an event they were throwing at the World War II Museum. This event was intended to present their pilot program, Warriors at Work, to selected invited guests. Since she knew I was in love with their program and hubby was retired military, we were honored to attend.

Rebuilding Together is not to be confused with Habitat for Humanity. They do not build houses, but repair and make owned homes sustainable and safe for those who can’t afford to pay for the work themselves. They started locally in 1998, and since Katrina, modified their mission to return displaced home owners to their homes. Striving to make a difference in the community, they reached out to Volunteers of America (VOA) to find candidates to employ. They hired four veterans who were part of the VOA Veterans Transition Housing Program at the time.

Mission: RTNO’s Warriors At Work program empowers veterans to achieve financial independence and increases RTNO’s capacity to repair the homes of low-income homeowners by providing job training and construction employment to homeless and unemployed veterans.

In November of 2011, RTNO hired 4 Veterans and offered them a one year opportunity to learn new skills and once again become productive members of society. Currently, the main focus for the Warriors at Work is to replace Chinese Drywall that Rebuilding Together unsuspectingly put in several of their previous projects. Though they “technically” completed the work to make the residence livable, they felt obligated to go back and replace the drywall. This program and the four men in the new Warriors at Work program, have all become Chinese Drywall experts now and gained many new construction skills. Their work ethic from their years of military service, has been outstanding and this program deemed a success. This crew of 4 works alongside AmeriCorps volunteers, the Rebuilding Together staff and individual and corporate volunteers who want to be involved and hands on. During the event, we listened to a local elderly female veteran, whose sincerity and gratitude for RTNO and the veteran crew defined the program and choked everyone up a bit. We learned a lot about the program with a fabulously produced video (coming) and also got to hear the testimonial from one of the veterans about what this program has done to turn his life around (inspiring).

Chevron has jumped in as a sponsor and YES – RTNO islooking for more donations to not only continue rebuilding New Orleans, but to continue to put Warriors to Work. Whether an individual or corporate donation of time or money, I encourage you to head on over and learn more about Rebuilding Together New Orleans today!

A picture with Rebuilding Together’s beautiful Robin Young. Don’t let her looks fool you. She could single-handedly demolish your house and rebuild it!

My previous posts about my experience with Rebuilding together are: here, here , here (must see video), here and here

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Cross-posted courtesy of the always inspiring Greta of Kiss My Gumbo.

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