A Message From Our Executive Director 2019
As many of you have heard, I have been named the new Executive Director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. It is an honor and a privilege to serve in this position. Everyone at Habitat stands on the shoulders of those who were here before us. I continue to be grateful for what my predecessors in marketing and fundraising did and the systems they put in place, because they still serve us today. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Pate and Elizabeth Lisle, who led this organization for 20 years. They had the incredible challenge of leading this organization through Hurricane Katrina and the recovery after. They built Musicians’ Village and were integral to the city’s revitalization.
It’s impossible to talk about housing and my joining Habitat without viewing it through the lens of my experiences with Hurricane Katrina. Losing my home and having to shutter my business was a humbling experience. Struggling to find resources far from home gave me a very small dose of what so many in our community deal with not a once in a lifetime, but daily, in the struggle to find safe housing.
After several years of living in North Carolina, working and learning with nonprofits, schools, and public radio, I was recruited to come home—in every sense of the word—to New Orleans to become the Chief Advancement Officer at NOAHH. In the last five years, I discovered the greatest joy of my professional career working at Habitat.
While going to home dedications and meeting partner families doing their sweat equity hours, I learned their stories and what motivated them. It reminded me that we have everything in common with the families we serve. The only thing that divides us is opportunity.
Habitat provides that opportunity. It isn’t just sticks and bricks; Habitat builds communities. Our partner families have the opportunity to buy homes at affordable rates. Our volunteers have the opportunity—and it is indeed an opportunity and honor—to get to know our partner families.
There’s a shared love for New Orleans and a desire to make our city a healthy, thriving place to raise a family. We all want to live where there are equal opportunities for everyone to find meaningful employment and to have secure and happy lives. We’re here to help build that. Going forward, our homeownership program will remain the core of our mission.
Looking ahead, we recognize that in our city, thousands of predominantly elderly or disabled homeowners are struggling to manage increasing healthcare costs, rising property taxes, and home maintenance. We plan to expand our home repair program to help families stay in the neighborhoods they’ve lived in for decades.
Of course, we will continue to host our signature events Songs From the Heart, Women Build, Bench and Bar, and Unity Build. These events help us raise funds and awareness, connect with the community, and build homes.
Our two ReStores will continue to be a major part of our operations. The stores not only raise funds for NOAHH’s programs, they also provide affordable furniture, appliances, and renovation materials to the local community. I have learned first-hand how valuable that can be: I lost all of my furnishings and everything in my home during Katrina. I started out buying a few pieces at the ReStore, and since then, it’s been a cycle of gradual improvement. Now, my entire house is furnished with things purchased at the ReStore.
I am looking forward to being very engaged with all levels of our community. Habitat must continue to deepen everyone’s understanding of how the issues surrounding poverty and workforce housing relate to their lives and their work. We thank you for your confidence in New Orleans Habitat. We will continue to be the best possible stewards of your gifts as we strive for affordable housing access in the New Orleans area.
Marguerite Oestreicher, Executive Director
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity