Characters of Note

by Michael Buck

Characters of Note

How a Non-Profit is Making Disaster Recovery Faster and Easier

by Michael Buck

Zack Rosenburg and Liz McCartney only planned on volunteering for two weeks in 2006 to do what they could to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.

They had no idea that trip would put them on what has become a 13-year journey.

The couple’s initial volunteering trip was an eye-opening experience. One thing that stuck out for them was the unbearably slow and inefficient recovery process.

They knew disaster recovery could be faster and easier, and they decided to act. Their first step was to launch the St. Bernard Project. Their mission was, and remains, to shrink the time between disaster and recovery so that they can provide safe, sustainable and affordable homes to those affected by natural disasters.

Now called SBP, the group has grown from a three-person volunteer team into a national organization headquartered in New Orleans. Volunteers, donors and corporate partners have helped make their expansion possible. James Hardie Building Products is just one of the organization’s proud corporate supporters.

Since 2006, SBP has directly rebuilt homes for more than 1,500 families with the help of more than 180,000 volunteers.

Their work has helped people in New Orleans; Joplin, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; Rockaway, New York; Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey; San Marcos, Texas; Columbia, South Carolina; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

SBP-built homes feature low-maintenance materials to help alleviate maintenance as a worry for those recovering from disaster. That’s one of the reasons that SBP almost exclusively uses Hardie® siding and trim products for their exteriors, said Jake Hollimon, Director of Construction for SBP.

“The homeowner can focus on their life and not be concerned about the expense of frequent upkeep,” Hollimon said.

To help ensure the siding lasts as long as possible, James Hardie technical representatives help train SBP members on proper installation techniques with on-site workshops.

While the products offer low maintenance, they also stand up well to the extreme heat and humidity of the New Orleans climate, which Holliman says makes them “the best option for siding.”

Providing homes not only helps individual families recover from disaster, but it also rebuilds entire communities. It helps create a place that people feel good about after so much strife.

“Home should be your safe haven, where you can feel secure raising your family,” said Delia King, SBP’s Client Services Manager. “People want to be connected to a place where you build memories and instill a sense of belonging to a neighborhood.”