At Project Homecoming, we know that we would not exist without you, our contributors. We have a lot going on and our work would not be possible without your support. As you read about your beloved Project Homecoming family member, Isabell Harris-Butler, please consider making an end of year gift to Project Homecoming. You will see, your generous gifts go a long way.
If you ask New Orleans native Isabell Harris-Butler to briefly describe why Project Homecoming is important to her, she needs a minute to collect her thoughts. For Isabell, Project Homecoming is so much more than home construction. She has been a part of the Project Homecoming family since 2010 and her experiences have transformed her in ways that she never imagined when she first joined us. When you donate to Project Homecoming, you are directly contributing to the transformations that happen here every day.
“It’s bigger than what ya’ll write. It’s bigger than what people think. It’s bigger than all that.”
When Isabell’s father suggested she apply for one of Project Homecoming’s AmeriCorps positions she was initially skeptical: “Me? Rebuild what?” However, she decided to try something different, something she did not think she could do. Even though she had no experience in construction, she had a desire to learn. With that attitude she was quickly hired to work as one of our AmeriCorps Worksite Managers leading volunteers from around the country rebuilding homes.
Little did Isabell know that her first year on-site would be radically transformative. There are two things in particular that stand out to Isabell when she talks about her time as an AmeriCorps Worksite Manager. The first: the training she received on the worksite. All of our AmeriCorps Worksite Manager teams receive extensive training in home construction as well as how to lead volunteer teams, instilling in our worksite managers the knowledge and confidence to make decisions to lead volunteers in on site.
“When I started I didn’t know the difference between a screw and a nail. Now I know a lot. They took their time and they taught it to me.”
The second: Isabell really enjoyed working with volunteers. Every year Project Homecoming hosts over 1,000 volunteers on site with our Worksite Managers rebuilding homes. Whether it’s college students from New Jersey, retirees from Kansas, youth from Texas or interns from France, we love our volunteers. But Isabell may love them the most, “I cry every Friday when they leave.” It is because of people like you that we are able to continue this work. By making your contribution to Project Homecoming you are providing the tools we need to rebuild homes.
Isabell will tell you that working at Project Homecoming offered her “a chance to come out from the hood to see something different. It’s taught me life experience; it’s not just a job.” As Isabell’s time as an AmeriCorps Worksite Manager came to a close, she knew she wanted to continue her work at Project Homecoming, and the feeling was mutual. We began partnering with the City of New Orleans and United Way in 2013 to form our Workforce Development Program and Construction Crew. Isabell was hired and found her niche in the painting and finishing team.
“It’s helping us to become people of society. In the process, we’re learning. We want to work and want the best and you help us.”
Not only do our crew members earn a competitive hourly wage, they are taught job skills that are important both on and off the worksite. Project Homecoming values what each crew member brings to the table. We want our crew to constantly learn and grow their skills and talents.
This past September, Isabell accomplished a feat she thought was impossible: purchasing her first home. In a funny twist of fate, this home is and is not new for Isabell, as it was the first home she ever worked on as an AmeriCorps Worksite Manager. Five years later, through some guidance from Project Homecoming and personal resilience,
Isabell is a proud first-time homeowner.
Isabell’s home is a property that Project Homecoming and a similar New Orleans rebuilding agency, Harmony Neighborhood Development, partnered to rebuild. It has high ceilings, beautiful dark wood flooring, and the outside is painted a bold blue. Not only is her home in the same neighborhood she grew up in, her dad also lives a few blocks away. If you ask Isabell to show you her home, she is more than happy to give you a tour. She points out the places on the wall where she first learned how to paint. She will tell you about how, five years ago, she never imagined she would be a homeowner, much less the owner of this home.
As housing prices continue to rise, affordable housing is increasingly important. Thanks to your support we are building twelve new homes for low to moderate income first time homebuyers. We will also begin welcoming rental clients to our affordable rental program in the spring of 2016 thanks to the support you give.
This holiday season, when you think about how to give back, consider making a donation to Project Homecoming. Your generous gift makes it possible for us to continue affecting the lives of the men and women in New Orleans. Whether it is through the Workforce Development Program, New Homeowner Program or Homeowner Rehabilitation projects, we not only work for New Orleans, but with New Orleans. In the words of Isabell, “You changed my life”. Help be a part of that change, contribute to Project Homecoming this season.