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March 17th, 2009
10:37 AM ET

Is the economy hurting volunteerism?

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more about the project and the situation in the region as Anderson reports live from New Orleans on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

The St. Bernard Project is a nonprofit organization in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, that helps people return to their homes that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The St. Bernard Project is a nonprofit organization in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, that helps people return to their homes that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
One house that is being rebuilt by the St. Bernard Project.
One house that is being rebuilt by the St. Bernard Project.

Kay Jones
AC360° Coordinating Editorial Producer

Is the economy hurting volunteerism? Not in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. I spent yesterday afternoon touring the business offices of the St. Bernard Project and was amazed at how much co-founders Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenburg have going on. Right now, they have 35 houses in some phase of rebuilding. By Wednesday, they will have completed their 200th home in this parish that was so devastated by Katrina.

When I talked to them about donations to the organization, they said while they can always use more, they haven’t seen any significant drop off in donations so far, and that is helping more and more families move back to the homes they love.

After touring the offices, I went to the home where we’ll be tonight bringing you the latest on the economy. The home is about two weeks away from when the homeowner will move in. She wasn’t there, but I heard from several of the volunteers about how excited she is to finally get back into the home in which she grew up.

The St. Bernard Project is making so much progress and will be expanding soon. I’m not sure I can give you all of the details yet, but hopefully Anderson can tonight.

After I finished my visit with the volunteers at the SBP, I made the drive to the Lower 9th Ward. The last time I was in that area, Hurricane Gustav was hitting and the waters of the Industrial Canal were lapping over the rebuilt levee. It’s amazing how much has been done for those who want to move back to that neighborhood, with several houses from the Make It Right Foundation already occupied and many in the process of being built. I ran into many people trying to break ground on a new home, and they were not letting the light rain deter their efforts.

While on my trek through some areas familiar to the 360 gang, I stopped by Mr. Herbert Gettridge’s home. Nobody was there, but I’m hoping to get by there today and say hello. I will let you know how it goes!


Filed under: Economy • Hurricane Katrina • Kay Jones • New Orleans • Road to Rescue
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Diane Hillebrandt

    I commend Anderson Cooper for keeping the cause of what went on and what still needs to be done here in St. Bernard Parish, Chalmette, La. also New Orleans alive so we're not forgotten. Living back to St. Bernard we all owe countless people who have given their Blood Sweat and Tears to help out in the ReBuilding of St. Bernard and the Greater New Orleans a HUGE debt of gratitued.
    Onec again Thanks Anderson for keeping the cause alive

    Diane Hillebrandt

    March 18, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    I'm glad people are still volunteering. Helping others never grows old and volunteering helps you as well as it gives you something constructive to do and lifts your spirits seeing things improve for even just a few people at a time. Hopefully two positives will result from this recession – more involvement in community affairs with the volunteering and more time spent with one's family and friends. We have needed both for a while – we were quickly becoming a nation of strangers until this recession – now we are all in the same boat and are finding that sharing the experience helps mentally.

    March 18, 2009 at 12:49 am |
  3. Amanda Walton

    Good for all those volunteering to make a difference, it really does lift your personal spirits and those of who you are helping-always well worth the work. It's great to see so many young adults giving their time helping those in Louisiana that have suffered much to long.

    Habitat for Humanity has always sparked interest in me and maybe time to get back out after spending a year volunteering throughtout Ontario Parks and start volunteering to help put those in need of homes into one.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  4. tony pitale

    We experienced the needs of those in St. Bernard Project and started our own .org – Furnishing For Hope. Our mission is to help those people that have had their homes rebuilt, to furnish them with the basic necessities such as beds, dressers, appliances, couches, etc.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  5. Dane Youell

    I have heard nothing about the amendment by Sens. Wyden and Snowe that would have prevented the bonuses. It got stonewalled by the senate and was dropped. Who was responsible?

    March 17, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  6. Ken in NC

    The LIVE BLOG was not up tonight.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
  7. Carl Clark / Citrus Heights, California

    When the economy is going good, volunteer work is still necessary but not as high a priority as when the economy is poor and more people are in need of any volunteer help that eases their needs. It is my sense that most volunteer work is done by those who still need to work for their own needs. When fewer people are able to meet their own needs then it would follow that fewer are able to volunteer. In summary, the bulk of volunteer work comes from the middle class, when the middle class is hurting then so are volunteer possibilities.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  8. Belinda

    AIG's bonuses may be good for growth after all.....AIG is a zombie business. The public disgust at these payments may make lawmakers more willing to accept bankruptcy for other zombie businesses sooner – freeing up investment dollars for the small businesses that will drag America out of this recession.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  9. janet collins

    just returned from touring the devastation in 9th ward, St Bernard parish and many other locations from Gulfport to New Orleans. I cannot believe what is still in rubble 4 years after. the pictures I took will help me remember a very depressing situation for the people-altho I don't need the pictures to remember-they'll be in my head for a long time. Wherever i went – i met the nicest, most polite people who need so much yet seemed to have positve attitudes. I wish i could do something to help.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:05 pm |
  10. Lorna

    Road to the Rescue – what a brilliant original idea! Not only bring ing the whole country face to face with the many who are suffering but giving sound coping advice. Bravo CNN!

    March 17, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  11. Wardell katrina survivor

    It's good to see people still care about one another, dispite all the negative spit, there are those who still try to do what's right, Peggy, I feel for you, I live in a state , where the govenor is talking about giving back money, when people are losing jobs, pushing personal responsibility, I think you sound, personally responsible, and you deserve , HELP, not the bull, the republicans are pushing, those people who lost their life, when that bridge fell, where responsible, the state and federal government, were to blame for that bridge falling. spend the money on OUR people,thats my opinion, and those who haven't lost everything, to the RIPP-OFF, artist, will gladly do what they can, the president, and his wife, have advocated, volunteering.In NewOrleans, the politics are MESS-UP,but it's not just the city, it's the state,also. I live in the other part of the 9th ward, I see kids, from other places building houses,habitat for humanity, it feels good to see them, at least trying to help,out here in NO east, that's more than I can say for the city and state, all I here is, about garbage in the french quarter,and e-mails missing,dead lines, killings, corruption, in city hall,and NOPD, it's sickning. I really appreciate Anderson and the crew, for the excellant job of covering,this city,and trying to KEEP THEM HONEST,it's not easy,in the BIG EASY. GOD, help US.

    March 17, 2009 at 9:10 pm |
  12. Sham Pancha, Wellington New Zealand

    I have to agree with Michael of Virginia. But I applaud the people who stick to their guns and volunteer no matter what. I used to volunteer at the SPCA in Wellington, but with the recent hike in prices, high taxes, I can use the $50 that I spend on transportation to get to the SPCA on my weekly grocery bill. We try in small way in our neighbourhood.

    March 17, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  13. Denise

    I live in Michigan and work for a non-profit organization that teaches video production. Volunteerism is very much alive here, in a place where people are really hurting. I sense that more people are pulling together because they (we) share similar stories and are at some point all connected by what's happening. They are scrambling to find jobs, but also have large amounts of time to fill. That's where we come in, we are teaching volunteers a new trade that is "Video Production" because in Michigan the film industry is coming here. Everyone who walks through the door has a story, and everyone is more then willing to volunteer to help the community, and although this is a very difficult time everyone is still willing to give.

    March 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  14. kristen

    I live in Los Angeles and had a friend recently try and sign up to be a Big Sister. The local Big Sister organization here told her they are full, have a very long waiting list and to call back in another year and a half!! It's a good problem to have. I believe the long waiting list has a lot to do with Obama pushing for all of us to get involved in our own communities. But I wonder how donations have been doing for global needs?

    March 17, 2009 at 4:50 pm |
  15. cougar_gal06

    I think it's tragic that more isn't being done to help the worlds poor and hungry! I personally would like to see global poverty to be addressed. There are 963 million people (throughout the world mind you) that go to sleep hungry every night and 25,000 die every day from hunger and malnutrition according to the borgen project(www.borgenproject.org). There are 191 countries, including the U.S., that created the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 and I would like to see them fulfilled. Have we really become that selfish that we think that we need the money more than those 963 million? There are 980 million that live on less than $1 per day. Think of only getting to eat a McDonalds hamburger or only getting french fries…… I know I couldn’t survive on that much food each day. I’d probably want to eat my arm or paper or some weird random thing to cope with the hunger. I think it’s time to make a difference in the world and to make America the proud nation that we used to be.

    March 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  16. Charlene Huerstel

    Also sorry for the misspelling of corporate it must be when ever I speak of them they make my skin crawl, and just to add instead of a bonus how about being happy they may still have a job and they should divide all of the bonuses up and give it to all of the people who got screwed. JUST A THOUGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 17, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  17. Charlene Huerstel

    Hey Anderson,

    Thanks for checking up on us, I must say from personal experience with Liz and Zack and all of the wonderful volunteers who have come to our parish to help us rebuild has saved alot of people from falling off the edge of life, when you toured with them and see the progress and work they do with such limited funding to get a family back into their home words cannot express how that feels, my husband and I were blessed for them to help us finish our home when we ran out of funds right around the end of re-building we had lived in our driveway in a FEMA trailor for 2 1/2 years and if it were not for them I can promise you I would have been sent to a rubber room, point being if they can get a family into a home with $10,000.00 and Volunteers what does that say about our goverment and I won't even get started on that, we appriciate all that they do and Congraulation's Liz & Zack on your 200th home and God Bless one more family back home. Thanks Anderson for your coverage we need it and keep on trying to keep them honest in today's world of cooperate thieves & cooperate welfare I sure you are keeping a 24/7 job keeping up with them. Take Care and God Bless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    March 17, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  18. Laura Jannika

    I am glad you are travelling around the country interviewing real people. I live near Detroit and would like to invite you to my house to meet real auto workers. I could gather engineers, designers and plant workers to my home in Livonia. We have so many stories.

    March 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  19. JC-Los Angeles

    I suggest garnishing the wages of all the worthless executives, politicians and leaders, depositing their compensation into taxpayers accounts and then require them to volunteer as a form of work release.

    If this esteemed crew can voluntariily run companies and America into the ground, then they can certainly volunteer in more useful ways.

    March 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  20. Pam Weisbrod

    My daughter works for Hillel, ( a non profit organization), at Indiana University and has taken a group of students from IU to join with other Hillel groups from across the country on an Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans this week. These students have chosen to give up their 'down time' from college and give of themselves, readied with hammers, paint brushes and open hearts. As they continue the restoration of SBP and other hard hit areas of N.O., I say BRAVO to their spirit of volunteerism! The funding for campus Hillels ( like other nonprofits) may be down, but the hearts of the students they serve are elevated by the opportunity to do good for others.

    March 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  21. mari, MA

    I am really interested in tonight show, New Orleans. where are the residents? Are they keeping their passion?
    Bon voyage for this special report 'Road to Rescue'!

    March 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  22. Jim

    I was a Vollunteer at a Museum for 14 years The Economy is not to blame but Buracracy & B.S. M.S. & P.H.D. of City ,State, & Federal government- We tryed to get a 5 mile tourist railroad built to create jobs,
    We as Vollunteers went out & got a Historic railroad trestle, & Rail some of which about 1200' got laid by vollunteers saving the Museum,County about $75,000.00 But the Valley Vole & Southwestern Willow fly catcher were MORE important as was a " Archeological site" that is presently a dirt road that was graded for the railroad back in 1911 we would have covered & protected it yet Fishermen drive on it constantly tearing it up & if it was SO important as a archeological site why has the road not been closed & the archeology done allready????? I say – Let the rat & bird Bail out the Banks,A.I.G. & the Auto industry.

    March 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  23. George Symons

    volunteerism is a personal responsibility......we all have the time, some just waste too much time. Go give some blood .......volunteer to be a school crossing guard.....ask your employer (if you're still lucky enough to have a job) about how they support community volunteers.
    Call the local food bank and ask if you can help. It's Spring consider getting the community together to start a community garden. I applaud the owner of B&W Hitches for sending workers into the community with pay to do community projects rather than laying them off.

    March 17, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  24. Larry L.

    Obama and the Democrats are hurting volunteerism.They take away all of the personal responsibility from the individuals and set-up a government bureaucracy to do everything.

    March 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  25. M

    Worked in this parish and the Upper Ninth Ward for more than half the year of 2008... I believe that the economy is hurting long-term volunteerism... Especially for those that are young (think 20s) who are out of college and wanting to help the community before starting their careers. I met many of these types while I worked a little with this project and Habitat for Humanity. There were many young people running construction sites and clean-up projects but a lot of them have had to quit this year since the financial plunge of this country. It's really too bad because they were all very hard workers and New Orleans still needs a major rebuilding efforts since Katrina. In any event, long term volunteers that probably can "best it out" are retirees...

    March 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  26. Robin B. Stewart

    I think it is. Programs keep getting cut therefore the people who volunteered at these programs are now not able to volunteer. I believe that many of these programs should not be cut in the first place. They don't earn that much revenue to begin with. I feel badly because these programs are for children, seniors and handicapped people. Shame on those cutting these programs.
    Sincerely,
    Robin B. Stewart
    West Haven, CT

    March 17, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  27. Lynnette

    Now is a time when volunteerism should be flourishing. People who are looking for work could reap great benefits from devoting just a few hours a week to volunteering. It's almost always true that helping others makes us feel better. Plus, the reality is that you may make great contacts that can help you find paying employment. And you may have an opportunity to pick up new skills or brush up old skills that can help in your job search. At the very least, your volunteer work will look good on a resume or job application.

    March 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  28. Cindy

    I hope that you all do some filming in the lower 9th ward and other places besides the tourists attractions. We want to see the real NOLA and what has been done since you all last were there.

    Hopefully you can get on touch with Mr. Gettridge and his wife and we can get an update on them tonight.

    No I don't see volunteerism dropping off at all. I think in rough times is when people volunteer the most.

    Cindy..Ga.

    March 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  29. G. Martinez

    Volunteerism is very nice, but what this nation needs to concern itself with is producing more quality goods. We sound more like Europeans everyday. The World markets are merging and competition is stiffer than ever. This is our reality. As Asia takes larger chunks of the European market share we worry about how nice we feel or whether there are enough sidewalk cafes in our cities. If this keeps up, we will all be employed by Chinese or Japanese companies and volunteering our Saturdays to help the endangered spotted cricket cope with the emotional distress. This will happen as more and more of our society is sold off to mega companies from abroad.

    March 17, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  30. KIm

    How are the schools ? Sa,Ba,Sa !

    March 17, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  31. bruce morningstar

    It is very difficult to do anything after our experience of the last eight years, where the administration was a gimmee, gimmee, group and allowed that attitude to permeate our businesses, especially the Banks and Wall Streets. I used to think that politicians were at the bottom of the food chain, but they have company in bankers and Wall Street executives who continue to take as evidenced by AIG, one of Bush's favorites. As someone who was a Republican and voted for Reagan until he appreciably raised my taxes, I went independent and then had to register as a Democrat because I knew my frat brother "W" was really dumb. We need the Republican Party to come up with intelligent leaders, and that eliminates Palin and Jindal. Most high school presidents are smarter than either of those two. I would like to thank CNN for spending so much time showing off their Republican leanings. It is the only intelligent display of Republican beliefs, as opposed to Limbaugh, Ingraham, Coulter and all those pundits who have no understanding of reality in this country.

    March 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  32. Aiki

    Volunteering to rebuild most of Louissiana is perhaps the largest waste of money and time the US has ever embarked on. With ocean levels rising, a levy system proven to fail, just how smart is it to dump billions, yes billions of dollars and untold man hours into an area that will surly flood again? Please people, grow a brain. "It's my home" is no reason to continue to live in a flood prone area. It's just stupid. The governor is an idiot and people are wasting their time. Please grow a brain and move!!!!

    March 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  33. J. D. Gallagher

    What happens to/for all those people whose 301ks are invested in AIG?
    jdg

    March 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  34. meenas17

    Love and compassion do not wane. They grow,during turmoil and gloom.That is what has happened in Louissiana. That will happen in places affected by unemployment. If one door closes ,another will open far more wide and far more accomodative. than the previous one.

    March 17, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  35. Lauren Cypher

    I work for a large nonprofit and although our donation dollars are way down, our volunteer numbers are up significantly. The spirit of volunteerism is alive, and where two years ago people were able to make monetary donations, now they are only able to give of their time. It is heartwarming to see such wonderful people with such large hearts in the midst of struggle still focus on causes bigger than them

    March 17, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  36. Alex: Baton Rouge, LA

    Although Louisiana is one of the most poverty stricken states in the country, we have somehow managed to find our "light at the end of the tunnel." Louisiana is one of the backbones of the US petrolium and paper industries and that could possibly be why we have not had to many negative affects on our state economy.

    I appreciate your focus on Louisiana and Michigan. Both of these states are home to me, and I hope that Michigan can find its way, much like Louisiana has.

    March 17, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  37. peggy hemperley

    I am truly sorry about all of the middle class workers who has lost their jobs and may lose their homes due to forcloser but what about people such as myself who is not {middleclass income} but under the poverty level who has lost a job. I stand in fear of losing my apartment . my unemployment wont cover my rent and all of the other bills I have. I dont owen a credit card...... I am scared for my future....

    March 17, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  38. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    It is sometimes hard to "give back" when all your government does is to constantly take from you--and believe me Americans are being taken to the cleaners!!

    March 17, 2009 at 10:37 am |