When I moved to New Orleans, my mother said I was running away from home at 50. Maybe it felt like that to her, but to me I was running towards the Lower 9th Ward. I’d been volunteering from afar and I knew I could do so much more if I lived here. Mostly, though, my heart was here.
Now, after 10 years at the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association, I’ve made it to 60 and it’s time for me to take a break. I’m not thinking of it as retiring—I’m just entering a new phase of my life. I want to exercise more and eat better and clean the house for a change, to garden and hike and study native plants. I’ll probably write some, about nature, about climate change, and about systemic racism in housing.
The timing is perfect. For the past year, working side by side with Gaynell, I have seen how deeply grounded she is in the neighborhood. With roots that go back generations, her vision, her understanding of residents’ needs, her ability to craft solutions and draw in resources, are far beyond my own. She is ready to lead the L9WHA into the next phase of its life.
Without any exaggeration, these past 10 years would not have happened without you. At the beginning, the only funding we had came from people who believed in justice and who gave from their hearts. Since then, we have also partnered with foundations that have funded our work year after year, coupled with the individual donors who are still our bedrock. You have stepped up on GiveNOLA Day, shared our posts on social media, become sustaining donors, made matching gifts, asked your friends to give to us for Christmas or your birthday, and given to the year-end campaigns that set our course for the following year.
This year’s campaign will begin at the end of November. With the L9WHA on the cusp of a new moment, it will determine, even more than usual, how much Gaynell can do in the coming year. I ask you to continue to give with the same generosity you always have, or even to consider making a bigger gift this year. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year, either, you can help us kick off our campaign today. I am making my annual gift today and you can too.
But don’t give because I ask you to. Give because the work you have nurtured is not complete, because elderly residents still need help saving their homes from unlawful tax sales, because young families are still trying to create their own homes in this neighborhood they love, because the L9WHA is now also doing COVID and Hurricane Ida relief work, and adding new programs to promote water-wise living and serve the WHOLE of the Lower 9th Ward community and the people who live here.
As I leave—though I’m not really leaving, I will still be helping Gaynell and the rest of the team in whatever way I can—there is simply no way to thank you enough for making this journey happen, for the support and love you have given, not just to the Lower 9th Ward but to me. I will always hold you in my heart.
With enduring gratitude,