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People holding hands.

When a single mother of three connects to another single mother of three, one who lives hundreds of miles away, one from a very different background, and finds support and friendship for over 10 years, that’s social capital. When young men and women from around the country befriend each other during a 10-day stretch of construction work, brought together by a shared cause, that’s social capital. And when two churches form a lasting partnership on our build site to better their community and expand the reach of their good works, that’s social capital.

Though you have helped NOAHH build 30 homes, complete 45 ABWK repair projects, and begin several new programs, the full value of what your gifts of time, money, and hard work have accomplished is seen in the lives that have changed because of it. Every home means a family’s life has changed, every repair project is an act of preservation, and our new programs expand the reach of our impact. With over 8,100 volunteers working over 170,000 hours over the course of the year, thousands of people have made connections with each other, with staff, with partner families, and more that bring them social capital that will continue to enrich their lives for years.

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The biggest event of the year–and perhaps the biggest single event our affiliate has ever undertaken–was the 2015 Habitat AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon. AmeriCorps from Habitat affiliates around the country worked alongside local partner families, volunteers, and friends of NOAHH to build 10 homes in 10 days. Together, these groups bonded over their shared mission and efforts, creating relationships that will benefit them individually and inspire continued support for our city and the cause of affordable housing.

Build-A-Thon was the start of our commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The focal point of our commemoration, of our intent to honor the losses and the progress in the last 10 years, was the week of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina week that saw us start a major new program, host two concerts and a major luncheon, and participate in both the Citywide Day of Service and the Folgers Resilience Walk/Run. In their own ways, each of these events each exemplified the building of social capital that is at the root of NOAHH’s success.

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Our partnership with Covenant House was officially announced a few weeks before the anniversary, but the week of the walls went up on the very first double being built as part of the program, which will pair a Covenant House participant with someone outside of the program, allowing a connection that will provide guidance and support during a time of transition. The luncheon for H.E. Ambassador Al Kuwari celebrated a cross-cultural partnership that came in the early years after the storm and helped build NOAHH’s signature project, Musicians’ Village. Songs From the Heart brought Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, and Rodney Crowell to our city to play intimate concerts to raise money for the affiliate, drawing new supporters and raising enough to sponsor a home!

On the day of the tenth anniversary, NOAHH participated in the Citywide Day of Service, during which thousands of volunteers joined nonprofits all over the city. NOAHH had five build sites active that day, hosting hundreds of volunteers, including our AmeriCorps alumni, core volunteers, Marines, RHINO, and students from Tulane University. Like Build-A-Thon, this was an opportunity for myriad groups to bond and build empowering connections.

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But while Build-A-Thon was the biggest event of the year and the Katrina Week events were the culmination of our commemoration, the Faith Build, perhaps, was the most significant moment of building social capital. The build was inspired by the Episcopal Diocese’s Year of Racial Reconciliation and brought together Trinity Episcopal and Household of Faith to build a home in Hollygrove in 10 days. The end result was a covenant partnership between the two churches and an inspiring two weeks for homeowner Ashley Kottemann.

Along with our Covenant House partnership, NOAHH has started other new partnerships this year, including with unCommon Construction, a local nonprofit started by one of NOAHH’s former site leaders. The program brings students from all over New Orleans together on work sites, teaching them not just construction skills but other life and employment skills as well. This helps them build social capital by connecting them with NOAHH staff, other volunteers, partner families, and each other.

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NOAHH continued to expand old programs and create new ones. Our Habitat Urban Gardens remains one of our most successful programs, with 17 groups planting 36 gardens throughout the city, and our ABWK home repair program completed its 100th project in March. Through the SNAP program, NOAHH was able to expand the types of repairs we could address, and thus the number of people we could help. NOAHH also continued our Service Learning partnerships with local high schools, teaching the next generation of advocates, volunteers, and supporters about the need for affordable housing. There are now more core volunteers at NOAHH than ever, and though it’s only begun, our Clean House Team is off to a great start.

Our ReStore hosted an art auction at the Home and Garden Show this year, bringing local artists together to raise money for NOAHH’s mission using materials acquired at the ReStore. In the fall, the Orgill Dealer Market donated 13 truckloads of goods to the store, resulting in the store’s second highest sales day ever and 8% of all annual sales. Total sales for the ReStore came in at over $910,000, a over fourth of which was furniture. All together, over 1 million pounds of material were kept out of landfills. These events helped the ReStore continue to support the local arts community and build relationships with new supporters, and as always, the sales at the ReStore remain one of the best sources of funding for NOAHH’s mission and of affordable materials and furniture for local families. But even with these big events at the ReStore, this moment might have been the highlight of the year.

kyrgyz xmas 2015

Our friends and tithe partners at Habitat for Humanity Kyrgyzstan shared their latest newsletter and holiday greetings. NOAHH capped the year off with a Christmas concert at Trinity Episcopal with Calvin Johnson, a NOAHH Musicians’ Village homeowner, leading his band Native Son and Jewels String Quartet with special guests the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in several Christmas standards as a thank you to NOAHH and the city of New Orleans.

For more on what you’ve helped NOAHH accomplish this year, you can read or download our Annual Impact Report.

Next year, with your help, NOAHH will build at least 25 new homes for hard working New Orleanian families, complete 40 ABWK repair projects to help primarily elderly and disabled homeowners, continue our work on rehabilitation of neglected properties, and build four more doubles that will serve as transitional rental housing for at-risk youth through our partnership with Covenant House, continuing to focus not just on building homes but also on building the social capital that is essential to fighting poverty housing and the other major issues affecting our city.

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