Like more than 1,000 volunteers from all over the country, I traveled to New Orleans during the last week of August 2010 to participate in (and cover) Fifty For Five, an effort by Rebuilding Together to revitalize 50 homes that are still damaged from Hurricane Katrina. It's been exactly five years since that shocking tragedy, and the news from the Gulf is decidedly mixed. While Sears (which covered my travel expenses), Wells Fargo, HGTV, Choice Hotels and others are contributing significantly to rebuilding efforts -- and much of the work is being done with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind -- there are 100,000 people who haven't been able to return to the Big Easy. Crumbling structures are everywhere and residents grumble that politicians have yet to make good on past promises.
Still, there's no place like New Orleans, and the spirit of the community burns brightly in every nail that is hammered and off every fresh coat of paint.
Lula Ruffin can't wait to move back into a house with her family, thanks to the efforts of Rebuilding Together and its partners.
"Everyone should be able to go green. And it's going to help with our high utility bills," Lula's daughter, Lois Ruffin, explained. Fifty For Five includes some green building elements, such as good insulation, plus Energy Star appliances donated by Sears and GE.
Volunteers Roll Up Their Sleeves
Rescue Marks Persist
Down to the Foundations
The Superdome Gets a Gold Facelift
Historic French Quarter
Painting in the Rain
Volunteers Pitch In
Few Buildings Were Safe
New Orleans Streetcars
Scraping Away Grime
Sears Big Switch
Hope for the Future
New Orleans has had a long and colorful history, and there's no question that the spirit of the city endures. Although many challenges remain, many residents are hopeful that rebuilding and rebirth will continue. Hopefully, much of it will go green.
Sears covered the travel expenses for this reporter.