Orleans Parish Long-Term Recovery Group celebrated rebuilding successes two years after N.O. East tornado

More than $2.9 million in impact generated under “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” initiative

NEW ORLEANS – Community leaders and representatives of the Orleans Parish Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRO) gathered Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of the New Orleans East tornado and celebrate the successes under the “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” recovery initiative.

The group joined together at Maria Lewis’ home, one of the few remaining affected houses under active construction. Lewis’ residence sustained significant damage in the Feb. 7, 2017, tornado, displacing the four-person household. The LTRO supplemented the family’s inadequate insurance disbursement to return the uninhabitable structure to a home.

The event marked the close to the core rebuilding phase of the initiative, funded in large part by Entergy New Orleans, which helped homeowners rebuild after the violent storm. The LTRO identified 892 homes – including the Lewis’ – affected by the February tornado, with 245 properties sustaining major damage.

Immediate relief for families in need came in many forms including damage assessments, temporary roof repairs, debris removal, rental assistance and case management services – all at no cost to residents.

Collectively, the LTRO and funders amassed more than $2.9 million in community impact through volunteerism and financial contributions since 2017. More than 4,500 volunteers collected 68,020 service hours over the course of the rebuilding process, while monetary and material donations for emergency relief and construction totaled over $1.2 million, including 211,766 pounds of food distributed in the area.

“United Way is proud to have contributed to the founding of the Orleans Parish Long-Term Recovery Group,” said Jamene Dahmer, UWSELA senior VP of special projects. “Collaborative recovery efforts are the most effective method to combine and leverage resources to create maximum impact for families affected by disaster.”

The LTRO, chaired by Kathy Wendling of Camp Restore and co-chair Mary Smith of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, includes United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Baptist Community Ministries, the City of New Orleans, Camp Restore, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, Greater New Orleans Foundation, HandsOn New Orleans, Louisiana Baptist Convention, Open Architecture Collaborative, New Orleans Baptist Association, NOLA Tree Project, Rebuilding Together New Orleans, SBP, Second Harvest Food Bank, United Saints, Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training, Women United and Volunteer Louisiana.

Partners established the need for a collaborative, long-term recovery plan to create a larger pool of resources to supplement the estimated $18 million cost for the community’s recovery. Goals for the initiative included: zero contractor fraud, expedited settlements of FEMA and insurance claims and affordable temporary housing.

"Due to BCM’s generosity, compounded with the gifts of our churches, we were able to give nearly 200 individual grants to families who lost their homes, each $1,000,” said Alex Paul Brian, New Orleans Baptist Association business and communications director.

“One-thousand dollars is not enough to rebuild a leveled home. It is not enough to replace your family’s possessions or even to repair a damaged roof. However, $1,000 is enough to communicate to a person facing a loss that their community cares for them, mourns with them, and is willing to labor beside them in rebuilding."

Maria Lewis and her family are expected to return home in March 2019.


Additional Partner Quotes:

HandsOn New Orleans, Chris Cameron, Executive Director

“HandsOn was pleased to add enormous strength in the recovery of the New Orleans East Tornado and bring in over 900 volunteers for a community impact savings of $80,000.”

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, Tom Costanza Division Director: Behavioral Health Ministries, Disaster Services, Justice and Peace

“Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans was on the ground, day one, performing intake and assessment of needs for individuals in New Orleans East when the tornado struck the area. The recovery efforts shifted quickly from short-term relief to complex long-term needs of families attempting to return to normalcy. Catholic Charities assigned full-time case managers who provided case management for individuals and served as the primary point of contact, assisting clients in coordinating appropriate services and resources. Catholic Charities has a long history of providing for the most vulnerable in our community and has a proven record of providing swift, efficient and compassionate aid.”

Camp Restore, Kathy Wendling, Director of Community Service and Development

“Over the past two years, Camp Restore has worked to restore Faith, Home and Community to New Orleans East residents affected by the 2017 tornado. Through our volunteers, staff and community partners, we are committed to improving New Orleans.”

United Saints, Chris Schottland, Executive Director

“We're one New Orleans non-profit among many that have been working since the day this happened. This is our small piece and we're very proud of it, but it takes all of us working together to solve the puzzle. As part of the Orleans Parish Long-Term Recovery Group, United Saints Recovery Project has provided 729 volunteer-days for over 5,200 service hours for residents affected by the tornado that struck New Orleans East on February 7, 2017. We have been very happy to collaborate with others in recovery.”

Rebuilding Together New Orleans, William Stout, Director

"Rebuilding Together New Orleans believes that everyone has a right to live in a safe and healthy home. Disasters, like the F3 tornado in New Orleans East, robbed hundreds of families of that opportunity. We are proud to be working alongside families that are still on that long road back home two years later."

NOLA Tree Project, Connie Uddo, Director

“When the tornado hit New Orleans East on February 7, 2017, we immediately felt called to help our neighbors. Drawing from our Katrina experience, we were on the ground immediately with hundreds of volunteers and stayed there for over a year helping to rebuild shattered homes and lives once again. Joining the Long Term Recovery Committee was one of the best things we have done.”

Open Architecture, Stuart Stoller, Architect, LEED AP

“Open Architecture New Orleans is thankful for the opportunity to assist the Long Term Recovery Group, allowing our member architects to grow as change-makers in the re-building of the New Orleans East community.”

New Orleans Baptist Association, Alex Paul Brian, Business and Communications Director, Neighborhood Ministry Coordinator

"We asked our churches, as well as churches of every denomination and affiliation in the affected area, to find people who experienced severe loss and ask them to submit an application for aid. Hundreds of applications were submitted, each one an expression of profound need in our community. We then pieced together a team of skilled workers from our churches who were able to assess damage, verify home ownership, and disburse funds according to a tiered system. In the end, we were able to fund all of our applicants with damage greater than $10,000.  Those who experienced a total loss received a second grant.

Volunteer Louisiana, Judd Jeansonne, Executive Director, Volunteer Louisiana

“The 2017 tornado ravaged large parts of New Orleans East, but through the Volunteer Generation Fund, Volunteer Louisiana was able to support NOLA Tree Project’s rebuilding efforts and get the Berkley family back in their home.”  


About United Way of Southeast Louisiana
For more than 90 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit UnitedWaySELA.org. Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.