Fighting Poverty with Passion
My name is Liz Jurey and I’m a Tulane VISTA with the Freret Neighborhood Center. I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — not too far from New Orleans. I spent a few years feigning interest in football before graduating from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. I then ran off to South Korea to do something that wasn’t at all related to my major: teach English. Jet lag was real, hours were long, and food was beyond spicy, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (Did I mention Korean children are adorable?) After my year in Korea, I was able to spend a few months traveling and volunteering around Asia. I headed over to spend some time in Paris after a trip back to the States. I worked as an au pair and held two volunteer jobs with the American Library in Paris and Shakespeare and Company (the most charming bookshop on Earth). My work doing communications, design, and social media with the American Library led me to seek a job focused on media and outreach as an Americorps VISTA. I’ve spent the last year working with the Freret neighborhood Center (FNC), and I’ve continued onto a second VISTA term with Tulane. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a chance to continue working with an organization that’s so close to my heart.
Now, a little more about my organization: the Freret Neighborhood Center functions as a community space for residents of the Freret and Milan neighborhoods… and, really, anyone who happens to stroll in. In 2007, we began operating out of a little shotgun house right on the Freret corridor. Neighbors came together in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and began to create programs that would help to rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of the area. They donated computers so that people could access online resources. An afterschool program was started, and children from all over the neighborhood spent their afternoons at the Center learning about art and entrepreneurship. They began an initiative to help homeowners rebuild their property. These programs — and more — exist to this day, and are still run with the help of neighbors and volunteers.
Over the past few weeks, life at the FNC has been somewhat of a whirlwind. Our organization is currently in the process of breaking off from our parent organization, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans, and obtaining our own 501(c)3. Needless to say, it’s been a bit stressful. On top of this, we’ve partnered with Nola TimeBank to create the Uptown Tool Lending Library! This past Spring, we hosted an incredible corporate volunteering event with Ingram Micro. In addition to supplying us with over 1,000 volunteers to do beautification work around the neighborhood, they also made a donation of tools and home improvement supplies. Now, what does one do with 30+ edgers and more than 70 shovels? Lend them to the public! This new project will help to equip New Orleanians with the supplies and skills they need to fix their homes, yards, and more. We’re all ready excited about this.
Photos from the Great Uptown Tune-Up!
We’ve also been working diligently to iron out the details for our Halloween Costume Give-Away this year. Due to the fact that there’s a lot going on with the whole becoming-our-own-stand-alone-organization thing, we’re having to scale it back a bit this year. In the past, we’ve held a festival with games and performers and loads of food. However, this year we’re getting back to basics and just focusing on supplying costumes to children in our target areas. In the life of a nonprofit, sometimes you’ve just got to do what you can.
All in all, I’m looking forward to what the fall season holds (other than Pumpkin Spice Lattes). It’s a time of challenge, growth, and new beginnings at the FNC, and I have no doubt we’ll end up stronger than we were before!