Civic Leadership | Environment

Five Years After Katrina: Lessons from New Orleans

One of the great attributes of a successful Junior League is the extent to which members take their Junior League training and experience outside into the community and do great things.

So with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina just last month, we checked to see if that informal rule held true in New Orleans.  It did.

Members of the Junior League of New Orleans were in the forefront of the Katrina disaster and recovery from the first day, and JLNO itself hosted more than 1,000 volunteers – including 600 Junior League members and others from across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. – for a week-long revitalization effort, known as The Junior Leagues Rebuilding New Orleans Together project, in some of the most devastated parts of the city, particularly around the Freret Street neighborhood that is home to the JLNO Thrift Shop.

But some JLNO members went further.

Out of frustration for the lack of attention and resources from Congress in the aftermath of Katrina, JLNO Sustainer Anne Milling joined with other Louisiana women whose families, businesses and lives were affected by Katrina and, later in 2005, Hurricane Rita to grab legislators’ attention by getting them to come to New Orleans to see the physical damage caused by the storms.  And Women of the Storm is keeping up the pressure on Congress in the aftermath of this year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the nearby Gulf.  In fact, Women of the Storm produced an amazing online video called RestoretheGulf.com that garnered more than 100,000 signatures within 100 hours of its launch.

Looking at New Orleans’ problems and opportunities from a different angle, JLNO member Barbara Bush joined with another group of women who are making a difference in New Orleans.  The outcome was Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, a non-partisan movement with a mission to reform New Orleans’ government and politics.  Starting with a focus on levee board consolidation and reform that will provide for greater flood protection for all residents of the state’s largest metropolitan area, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans is tackling larger societal issues, including the failing school system in Louisiana and the state’s strained criminal justice system.

Which brings us to the old question:  Can one individual really make a difference?

When asked that, Barbara Bush said, “With leadership and good people in place I am very hopeful that things will turn around in New Orleans.”

Which is good enough for us.

Comments