Shirts Across America

Imagine traveling with close to 100 high school students across the country…and then getting them out of bed before 7 a.m. every morning of their spring break to rebuild a community. This is the name of the game for Shirts Across America (SAA), an organization that provides young adults an opportunity to become thoughtful leaders as they volunteer to rebuild homes in communities affected by natural disasters. While they take trips all across America, Executive Director Randy Novak says they made a “commitment to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast over 10 years ago…and we want the people of New Orleans to know that we are on this journey with them.”

SAA finds, as most volunteers discover, that New Orleans feels like their second home. While volunteering, the students get the opportunity to meet our NOAHH homebuyers and see neighborhoods transformed. Randy said, “We love to meet the partner families and hear their stories. We feel blessed to meet these resilient homebuyers.”

This past spring, the group of 118 from SAA had the opportunity to build on Hermes Street in New Orleans East. They had students and leaders on more than six sites throughout the week, allowing them to see tangible changes in each house as well as the entire street. According to Randy, they had “hundreds of volunteers tackle this unique project and feel lucky to have worked on six homes…and the students and parents have been excited to see these homes completed as we update them with current photos.”

Leading students to New Orleans is no easy task, but for some it’s become a family affair! SAA focuses on teamwork and family, and each trip breaks people into teams, and those teams do everything together throughout the week. They are creating bonds with each other, learning about New Orleans, building homes with NOAHH and creating friendships that last for years. One recurring theme is the opportunity to “learn to walk with the homebuyers on their journey to homeownership.” For NOAHH, it starts with a family and a house, then progress on each block, and then neighborhoods are transformed. Without volunteers like SAA and thousands of others, our work would be impossible.