Civic Organizations

Each of the organizations listed below provide a way for individuals to get involved in either direct support to the victims of New Orleans or community action closer to home. They represent a range of approaches to making a difference, from political action to economic stimulus. Most are non-denominational, but several have a strong religious affiliation. This listing is intended to be representational of the ways in which people with many different talents, resources, interests and political convictions can become personally involved in supporting their vision of what kind of country America should be.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. ACORN has grown to more than 350,000 member families, organized in 850 neighborhood chapters in over 100 cities across the U.S. and in cities in Canada, the Dominican Republic and Peru. ACORN has a very robust project in New Orleans, but also provides opportunities for volunteers to work in their own communities.

America’s Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network is the nation’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization:

  • A Network of more than 200 Member food banks and food-rescue organizations
  • Serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico

The America’s Second Harvest Network secures and distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually.

A membership organization of small businesses in New Orleans, the organization’s mission is to promote the idea that small businesses are the lifeblood of the New Orlean’s community and that the fastest path to recovery is for consumers and purveyors to patronize local businesses – “one dollar at a time.” Local residents are asked to patronize small businesses within the city. Outsiders can patronize members of this organization by going to their website.

The Gulf Coast Civic Works Project is the national effort to develop federal legislation to create 100,000 WPA-like jobs for Gulf Coast residents to rebuild their communities. It is built upon the work of volunteers and the website lists at least six ways for individuals to get involved.

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need. Habitat has built more than 225,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter. HFHI was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller along with his wife, Linda. On May 21, 2007, Habitat for Humanity raised walls on its 1,000th and 1,001st homes in the Gulf Coast to help low-income families affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Along the Gulf Coast, Habitat is currently starting construction on more than 57 homes per month in a region where Habitat affiliates had built 57 per year.

Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. Mercy Corps has learned that communities recovering from war or social upheaval must be the agents of their own transformation for change to endure. It’s only when communities set their own agendas, raise their own resources and implement programs themselves, that their first successes result in the renewed hope, confidence and skills to continue development. Mercy Corps has projects around the world and in New Orleans.

Network for Good is an online charitable resource, bringing together donors, volunteers and charities to accomplish good. At www.networkforgood.org, users can donate to more than one million charities and search from among more than 36,000 volunteer opportunities. In addition, non-profits can access tools for fundraising, volunteer recruitment and donor communication. Founded in 2001 by America Online, Cisco Systems and Yahoo!, Network for Good is an independent 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Bethesda, MD. There are numerous opportunities for work related to Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Inc., a grass roots certified 501c(3) fund sends grants to help New Orleans musicians wherever they are. They offer multiple ways to contribute time and talent, as well as money.

The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination since 1865. In the largest disaster response mobilization in the organization’s history, The Salvation Army worked to meet the immediate needs of survivors following Katrina. The Army continues to serve individuals and families affected by Katrina by coordinating long-term clean-up and restoration efforts, providing financial and social service support to hurricane survivors and offering spiritual and emotional care to those impacted by the disaster. While the majority of this effort remains along the Gulf Coast, this is truly a nationwide endeavor. The Salvation Army for Hurricane Katrina response is being used to help Katrina survivors who have relocated, particularly in Texas and the surrounding states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida, but outside these areas as well.

President Bush created USA Freedom Corps (USAFC) to build on the countless acts of service, sacrifice, and generosity that followed September 11th. After the hurricanes of 2005, Americans turned to the USA Freedom Corps web site and the USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network to find service opportunities to help their neighbors in the Gulf Coast. In the months and years ahead, Freedom Corps will continue to be a reference point for Americans wanting to help in the Gulf Coast.

Story of the Levees



Teaching the Levees is a collaboration of Teachers College, Columbia University, The Rockefeller Foundation, HBO Documentary Films, Teachers College Press, and the EdLab