Three New Orleans Youth Strive to Make a Difference

Kevin Kieschnick – LINC New Orleans

To commemorate the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, neighbors, church members, and AmeriCorps members came together to better their community through service. Community Development at its Finest: 

September 9, 2011
Contact: Laura Brenner at 504-656-4025

New Orleans, LA: It’s a beautiful Saturday morning; the sun is shining, perfect weather for basketball, taking a run, or sleeping the day away.  Which is exactly what this eclectic group of people would be doing, if not for the common goal that brought them together: strengthening the community. To commemorate the 6th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall, City Year New Orleans partnered with the Bywater Neighborhood Association in a day long beautification initiative.  Communities First Association partner, LINCNewOrleans heard about this great collaboration and wanted to strengthen the effort.

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Grandma’s Hands

Tronn Moller – Faith and Community Development Institute

Meeting at their weekly Bible study to pray, share potluck suppers, Chat and Chew discussions and  ideas about how to better their grandchildren’s lives was a regular event for many of the grandmothers residing at The Estates, formerly known as the Desire Housing Development in New Orleans.  According to Marcia Peterson, director of Desire Street Ministries who leads the weekly study, it began after Hurricane Katrina and the main focus of the ladies was to help provide activities and services for their own live-in grandchildren .  “A lot of them are single women raising their grandchildren for various reasons,” said Peterson.

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We Can Do Our Part: Youth Build Urban Gardens

Tronn Moller – Faith and Community Development Institute

Lots in the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans maybe still abandon because of Hurricane Katrina, but its days are quickly coming to an end thanks to youth in the community.  They are turning the abandon lots into urban gardens.

The Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans still has 25 percent of their homes still blighted and 15 percent of the lots are abandoned.  Parlo Perkins, a Youth leader at Desire Street Ministries and resident of the community, said, “When I walk around the Upper 9th Ward, I see work that has been done. But I also see an opportunity for work to be done. Several months ago, we turned a vacant lot into an urban garden and we were excited about what happened. When the vegetables started growing, we really got excited.  That excitement grew into us asking ourselves, what if we took more lots and built more gardens?”

With the assistance of Desire Street Ministries staff and Tronn Moller of the Faith & Community Development Institute, the youth organized, mapped all of the properties on Louisa Street, and then researched to see who the owners were.   Some of the properties were owned by locals, and some of the properties were owned by the City of New Orleans.

The youth contacted the owners of 1706 Louisa and 1540 Louisa and they acknowledged that they weren’t ready to move on rebuilding on the lots. They just didn’t have the resources. The youth shared their vision of planting urban gardens and the property owners agreed to allow them to clean and plant gardens.

The first month of the project, the youth cleared the yards of paper, trash, old tires, and debris.  They reached a roadblock with hauling away the trash, but the City of New Orleans moved quickly to help.  On March 10th, youth volunteers and community leaders turned dirt and planted seeds. After they completed planting, Parlo commented, “I think we are on to something here. We can do our part in rebuilding the community.”

Journey Ninth Ward

It is with great excitement that I announce to you the launch of Journey Ninth Ward—the second campus of Journey Fellowship Church! My purpose in this proposal is to share with you the amazing story of Journey Ninth Ward, and to boldly ask for your generous help in making our vision a reality.

All of us know the devastation in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, “the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States.” One of the hardest hit areas of the city was the Ninth Ward. This section of the city is filled with the unique culture and old-world charm for which New Orleans is famous. However, the real asset of the Ninth Ward has always been the people—people who lived here for decades, many of whom returned home to rebuild after the devastation. They must not be abandoned!

From the first days after the hurricane, God called us to be part of this rebuilding process. In November, 2007, Journey Fellowship Church purchased the former Redeemer Lutheran Church—an historic church off St. Claude Avenue in the heart of the Ninth Ward. I wish all of you could have been part of the exciting, rewarding, miraculous transformation! Two buildings with more than two feet of hurricane water became Journey Ninth Ward. One building is a World War II-era sanctuary with a beautiful bell tower and incredible stained glass windows. Each window recounts stories from the life of our Savior and Redeemer—appropriate themes for a community that needed to be saved, and still needs to be redeemed. The second building is a multi-purpose facility that serves as our children’s ministry facility and the home of Compassion Outreach, a non-profit organization established to support our holistic ministry.

Why are we so passionate about the Ninth Ward? Nearly five years after Katrina, it seems New Orleans still lacks the natural and spiritual walls to protect its residents from vast poverty, deteriorating families, low academic achievement, and unprecedented violence. But in the midst of such discouragement, we have chosen to respond as did the prophet Nehemiah—by calling God’s people to rebuild the walls of the city. With residents returning and schools reopening and businesses rebuilding, it is critical that the community of faith rise again. People in the Ninth Ward need a revitalized center of worship where individuals and families can find hope, healing, and restoration. This is our mission—to “Transform Lives Forever.” We are passionate about the Ninth Ward because we know that God is passionate about the Ninth Ward. With us, it’s personal!

What makes Journey Ninth Ward distinctive? We know many people and organizations are committed to rebuilding New Orleans, and they are doing a wonderful job. But there is a difference. Our calling is not just to help people, but to permanently transform their lives—and we believe this best happens by connecting them with God. We know that God can change a heart permanently, because he has changed our hearts! And so we introduce people to the God of love, and remind them that their Creator has done everything necessary to reconcile them to himself in Jesus Christ. We think God’s Word is still the best guidebook for reconstructing a needy community.

This is what this proposal is all about. The time has come for Journey Ninth Ward, while continuing its spiritual partnership with Journey Fellowship Church, to become a fully self-supporting congregation. Thank you for taking the time to explore more deeply our vision for the Ninth Ward. And thank you also, in advance, for your prayers and partnership! Sincerely in Christ,

Robert Burnside, Pastor Journey Ninth Ward

New Pediatric Clinic Opens in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans

Four years post-hurricane Katrina, citizens of the Upper Ninth Ward communities now have full access to their very own pediatric clinic, Kids’ First Pediatric Clinic, located at 3512 Louisa Street.

Desire Street Ministries/CDC58:12, Abundance Community Residents, Children’s Hospital,and LSU Tiger Care Partnership has been working diligently to provide medical services for thousands of these citizens. The new clinic officially opened its doors on September 1, 2009. However, there was a ribbon- cutting ceremony on August 28th, followed by a ‘Second-Line,” a New Orleans’ own dance celebration in the streets of the city. Keynote speakers like: Danny Wuerffel, executive director of DSM along with others, came to speak to citizens during their dedication dinner.

“Once the flood waters receded after Katrina, our ministry team returned to the Upper Ninth Ward to help rebuild. Initially, progress was slow as families and resources trickled back into the city. In the four years since Katrina, we’ve resumed high-impact programs, one by one,” Wuerffel said. Some of those programs and services implemented are:

  • Helping to gut over 600 flood-damaged homes, preparing properties for rebuilding
  • Rebuilding and renovating nine flood damaged homes
  • Providing financial literacy seminars for local families
  • Serving over 150 local youth each year through after school and summer programs focused on education, recreation, and character development
  • Resuming Desire Street Academy to graduate 8 local young men this year while pursuing charter school status for the 2010 school year

The clinic served over 700 patients before the Katrina floods and now those numbers have doubled post-Katrina. DSM, New Orleans Director, Marcia Peterson said, “After Katrina, and periodically since, we’ve surveyed returning residents to learn the most pressing issues and obstacles to recovery. Our ministry efforts have been focused on meeting those priority needs.” DSM stands firmly on the outreach mission to encourage and equip leaders to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

Groups Brings Health Care to New Orleans

by Tronn Moller

Mohammed Ali once stated, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”  The Desire Street Ministries of the Upper Ninth Ward in New Orleans, La. are paying rent to local citizens in the form of free health care. Almost four years after Hurricane Katrina, DSM is still working with the post-Katrina issues of unbalanced and inefficient health care throughout the once proclaimed “Forgotten City.”  With the help of  Dr.Pinkel Patel, Chief Resident at Florida Hospital in Oviedo, Florida and his medical team of fifteen, Marcia Peterson, director of DSM, organized a week-long free clinic this past summer that addressed and catered to the needs of 260 New Orleans residents. Services ranged from basic screenings, case management, examinations, and recommendations for lab work to writing prescriptions and physical therapy.

Since the area was not earmarked by the city for most of the help it needed for recovery, Peterson made the need for health care and physician availability within the community, a priority. Along with Peterson, Patel was drawn to volunteer his time and efforts after attending a seminar in Florida where Danny Wuerffel, also known as the ‘quarterback with a servant’s heart’ and a 1996 Heisman Trophy Winner challenged the audience to make themselves available to those in need. Patel believes that much of the country is not fully aware of how much New Orleans still lacks in basic resources.

“It’s nationally known, but it’s not nationally exposed,” Patel said.” We got people from Florida and people say, it’s New Orleans, ‘isn’t everything fixed there?’ “Unless we know there is a need, unless we know we need to give time in addition to resources, things aren’t going to get done,” Patel said. Patel estimates that over half of the individuals seen at the week-long clinic suffers from diabetes, hypertension and/or some other chronic illness, making the demand for help even greater.

Furthermore, to help assemble a continuing wellness network within the community and to pinpoint the various medical needs, patients completed medical survey forms. The forms were designed to gather information concerning what services patients would most likely benefit from. The survey, also addressed the scope of health issues in determining whether or not patients suffered with bouts of sadness and/or depression. This bit of information then birthed the need for citizens gaining access to proper mental health and psychiatric care facilities. “What we‘re trying is to do is, we’re trying to collect demographic information here to see what patients we’re seeing here? What needs have we met here? Have we taken care of the blood pressure? Have we taken care of the diabetics; whether or not there is access to psychiatric care and follow-ups?”  Patel rhetorically exclaimed.

To insure that the clinic will provide a continuing and wide-ranging source of medical aid, DSM has collaborated with New Orleans based Excelth Inc, a federally funded healthcare primary care network and LSU Medical Center in a one-year agreement to offer “comprehensive care” for pediatric to adult demographics. Regardless of employment or lack of insurance coverage, the trio collaboration has not turned the cheek to anyone in need of medical attention. According to Mary Crooks, Community Relations Special Project Coordinator, of Excelth Inc., the organization will be providing health referrals, follow-up visits and weekly on-site clinicals through the mobile unit program. These clinicals are held each Thursday. “We’re a healthcare network and what we’re doing is , we’re helping to bring healthcare back here again to this particular community.” Crooks said. ” So, one of my roles was to help set this up and help coordinate the services here to make sure the services are appropriate and really something the community needs and what we don’t provide directly we provide indirectly; referrals to other sites.” Crooks said. Citizens throughout the community are being informed of the healthcare clinic through fliers, brochures and word-of-mouth.

Currently, the trio collaboration is planning to expand on their foundation to provide HIV testing and health awareness seminars to citizens of the community.  With the help of community citizens and leaders, DSM has gathered community input into designing its new web site. In keeping with it’s goals to rebuild and rejuvenate the physical as well as spiritual needs of its surrounding communities, Desire Street Ministries continues to offer high-quality care by adhering to the simple application of the scriptures found in Matthew 25:35-36a : For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty , and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and  ye took me in  : Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me ……


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