Developed in 2005 as a response to Hurricane Katrina, HandsOn New Orleans evolved from a disaster response project into a thriving volunteer center that provides service opportunities throughout the city. Despite a small team (bolstered by Americorps members), the organization is able to make a big impact throughout the city. Currently, “HandsOn supports over 213 nonprofits in the seven-parish metro area and specializes in volunteer recruitment, community revitalization and disaster management,” says Beth Eidam, Marketing VISTA.
Chances are, many New Orleans residents are already familiar with work done by HandsOn. This group helped initiate the Lutheran Youth Gathering in 2016, placing 11,000 volunteers with 38 partners over three days of service. “Two years later in 2018, our team led the City of New Orleans Tricentennial 300,000 Service Hour Challenge and flew past that goal to complete 349,290 service hours with 29,349 volunteers,” says Executive Director Chris Cameron. “This eagerness to achieve what no one else has done is a core value and characterizes the spirit of HandsOn.” With this track record of service already in place, the team was ready to jump into action when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
In March 2020, the HandsOn New Orleans team launched NOLA RISES, the New Orleans Resiliency Initiative So Everyone’s Served, a program dedicated to promoting food security and alleviating isolation among the city’s senior population. The first meal delivery served 98 senior residents, and only four days later 745 residents were served. These initial efforts were made possible through collaboration with local government and civic leaders, non-government organizations, foundations and corporate partners. Additional partnerships with DoorDash and World Central Kitchen made it possible to increase capacity even more, and within five months NOLA RISES had reached 42 percent of food insecure seniors in the city, having delivered over 700,000 meals.
For the most part, the HandsOn New Orleans team plans to keep growing and supporting the city. In addition to continuing the NOLA RISES program and expanding connections with local partners, the team will also offer both virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities throughout the New Orleans area. “That being said, our ultimate goal at HandsOn is to put ourselves out of business,” says Cameron. “We envision a socially just community with happy, healthy and prosperous people, and we’ll only stop when that’s a reality.”
➺ Get Involved
Anyone interested in supporting HandsOn New Orleans is welcome to donate via their website or Instagram profile (@HandsOnNOLA), and current volunteer information is available on their website: HandsOnNewOrleans.org.