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Student Affairs spreads holiday cheer to St. Bernard Parish

Loyola press release - December 14, 2009

The Loyola University New Orleans Office of Student Affairs gave up the typical office holiday party to spend a day volunteering with the St. Bernard Project, rebuilding homes of Katrina survivors. On Thursday, Dec. 17, 35 professional staff members headed to St. Bernard Parish as part of the project’s effort to move families Home 4 the Holidays.

Volunteers worked on three houses before hosting a barbecue for the homeowners with food and beverages generously donated by Loyola’s food service provider Sodexo.

The St. Bernard Project is a nationally-recognized, nonprofit organization that helps Katrina survivors rebuild their homes and lives. Using volunteer labor, the St. Bernard Project takes gutted houses and makes them livable again in fewer than 12 weeks with $15,000 worth of building supplies.

M.L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs and associate provost, said she contacted the project because it was a perfect fit for her team members who were looking for a way to give back this holiday season. The day of painting, sheetrocking and interacting with the families was fun and fulfilling, Petty said.

“When I got an e-mail from the St. Bernard Project about Home 4 the Holidays, I felt like it would be a terrific opportunity for us to celebrate the holidays and our hometown New Orleans," Petty said. "I have a feeling we have created a new Student Affairs tradition!"

Allie Wilmes, marketing coordinator of the St. Bernard Project, said it is volunteers like those from Loyola who keep hope alive for families in the Greater New Orleans area.

“The volunteers who are investing their time in our clients mean the world to both SBP and the homeowners we help,” Wilmes said.

Since it began rebuilding in St. Bernard Parish in July 2006, SBP has rebuilt more than 245 homes with the assistance of more than 17,000 volunteers. The organization has expanded its rebuilding model into several areas of New Orleans, including the Lower 9th Ward, Gentilly and New Orleans East and will replicate these services nationwide for post-disaster recovery.

In addition to the home rebuilding program, SBP has opened a community wellness and mental health center and has begun an affordable senior housing program to address unmet needs in the area.

For more information on the St. Bernard Project, contact Wilmes at 816-248-6486, allie.wilmes@stbernardproject.org.