For six years I’ve called the Irish Channel my home. My interest in the revitalization of the neighborhood came early in my residency. With unsupervised young people roaming the streets and a desire to meet my neighbors and make the neighborhood more attractive for families, I joined the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association (ICNA) and served on its board for three years.
Back in 2008, members of the ICNA were struggling with NORD’s lack of programs in our area. A group of our members started a Youth Basketball League to give the kids something constructive to do. Saturday mornings were spent rallying the people of the Channel to support the league which was made up of four teams on courts rehabilitated by former Hornets player Chris Paul. At the Championship Tournament, the Hornets sent Hugo and a few staffers who awarded the children Hornets backpacks filled with a hat, t-shirt, and a basketball of their own. The success of the league resulted in NORD resuming athletic programs and to support it, residents of the Channel and Delachaise neighborhoods formed the Lyons Burke Boosters.
Around the same time I met a woman who was the director of the New Orleans Institute. She was organizing the city’s first Jane’s Walks. Named for an urbanist in the 70s, Jane Jacobs, there are now worldwide Jane’s Walks in major cities that encourage residents and visitors to explore neighborhoods and discuss the connection between its people, landscape, education, history, crime and businesses. My husband and I have led these walking discussions in the Irish Channel for the last four years and we have partnered with businesses like Sucre, Café Rani, Belladonna and Belladoggie as well as the NOPD 6th District which provides us with a police car escort so we can walk in the streets.
Through my work as VP of Louisiana Restaurant Association, I was tapped by HandsOn New Orleans to serve as Principal for a Day in a local school. Specifically, I requested a school in the Irish Channel and was appointed to Laurel Elementary, now Sci Tech Academy. Work with the school extended beyond the one day and resulted in the planting of an edible garden at the school. This brought together a committee of the ICNA—the Greening the Channel Krewe—led by Michael Karem.
Through Parkway Partners, the residents and ICNA were awarded 75 crepe myrtles and sweet olives to plant in front yards, along walkways and along Jackson Ave. We approached the Home Depot for a grant to fund the project, allowing us to purchase shovels, gator bags, stakes, etc. For the school project, we used those funds and volunteer residents to bring HandsOn New Orleans, the school, the ICNA and Home Depot together to beautify the grounds and plant a garden.
As a NPN Capacity College graduate, it prepared me to continue working with residents, not only of the Irish Channel, to better their communities. In particular, my desire is to help the young people of our city become the leaders we so desperately need.