Our Afternoon At Lowernine.org

When Sam and I sat down to start planning out this year and how we were going to make it happen, it was really important to us that the companies we partnered with shared similar values and understood our mission of giving back. We were really happy when Tom’s of Maine, a natural products company focused on oral and personal care) was on board!


I’ve been using their deodorant for a while now and have since adopted using their toothpaste as well. It’s so important to Sam and me to know what we’re putting in and on our bodies, whether it be food or personal care products. But great products aside, what stands out to us even more is that this is a company with some amazing values and their 50 States for Good program which helps support grassroots non-profits in all 50 states is proof!


On Wednesday last week, Sam and I had the opportunity to check out one of the 2014 nonprofit funding recipients of the Tom’s of Maine 50 States for Good program, lowernine.org in New Orleans.

lowernine.org is dedicated to the long-term recovery of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward from Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches of 2005.

Sam and I spent the afternoon meeting a few of the faces behind lowernine.org, many of their volunteers, and one of the homeowners they’re working with, touring the Lower Ninth Ward and a couple of the houses they’re helping rebuild. Above all else, completely inspired.


First up was the home of Errol Joseph. His story is not uncommon, running around doing all he can to get back in his home. Dealing with federal, state, local and private organizations and their respective rules and fees. Jumping through hoops just to get back to his home; just to rebuild his home. And finally, with the help of lowernine.org and their amazing volunteers, his home is coming together.


As we spoke with him for a brief few minutes, he told stories of the volunteers who have come to help rebuild his home; the fire pit they built in his backyard out of old pieces of brick and the barbecue cookout that came of it. But more than anything, he spoke his gratitude for all they have done and all they still have yet to do; of the goal to have the house finished by the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; of the party that will ensue as celebration for all who have helped him and his wife return home; and how his home is always open to others.


From there we went to see Joe Vannison’s home. There were no volunteers there that day but we got to tour the house as they’re further along in the rebuilding stages. We got to hear Joe’s story of climbing through the ceiling of his home, as the water was above the 2nd floor windows, where he would spend the next three days waiting to be rescued by boat. We saw the door that was marked when crews came through post-Katrina to assess the damages that he’s since saved. It gave us goosebumps.


The stories of those in the Lower Ninth Ward are heartbreaking, yet also extremely inspiring. These people have persevered through so much and as such, are so grateful for lowernine.org and all of the volunteers who help make it possible. And when you talk to the team behind lowernine.org, they know their volunteers are everything and make their work possible. Volunteers come from all over the world to help out, many staying for a couple weeks (or even months) in the lowernine.org volunteer house. They talk of coming back and volunteering again and of returning to see many of the houses they’ve worked on once they’re complete.


It was a truly inspiring group and we are so thankful for the time we got to spend with them! Thank you for all of the work you do lowernine.org!

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