300,000 ways to make New Orleans a better place | Editorial

As part of the celebration of New Orleans’ 300th birthday, the city’s tricentennial committee set an ambitious goal for community service. They are challenging New Orleanians to put in 300,000 hours of volunteer work in 2018. When the effort was launched a month ago, many of us were probably focused on Mardi Gras festivities.

But today is the perfect time to get refocused on helping our community.

The 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, excluding Sundays, are a time for contemplation and self-denial for Christians. Catholics and members of other denominations that observe Lent usually give something up — alcohol, dessert, caffeine.

But this also is a good time to dedicate yourself to making New Orleans a better place. That’s something that everyone can do, whether it is a religious commitment or just a desire to do something for your neighbors.

The “300,000 for the Next 300” challenge makes it easy to help. The tricentennial community engagement committee partnered with the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Hands on New Orleans and Network Volunteers to coordinate the volunteer work.

The online Volunteer Center at handsonneworleans.org has a list of needs for dozens of agencies, from A’s and Aces and 24 Carrot Garden to Youth Run NOLA.

You can help high school students who are apprentices in the UnCommon Construction program build a house between Feb. 17 and April 28. Lowernine.org also needs volunteers to help with rebuilding homes in the Lower 9th Ward that were damaged in flooding during Hurricane Katrina.

Second Harvest Food Bank is looking for people to help prepare meals, sort and pack boxes of food and do administrative tasks like filing. KIPP Morial, KIPP Central City Primary and Lawrence Crocker Elementary need recess assistants. Volunteers can sign up for the day of the week and time that works for them. You can help out one day a week or every day.

If you prefer to be outside, there are all sorts of options. FirstLine schools need help with garden classes or garden maintenance in the Edible Schoolyard. City Park volunteers can help fix trails in the Couturie Forest and Scout Island, plant trees, paint picnic tables, and more. Or you can work on habitat restoration for the Woodlands Conservancy on Saturdays.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation wants people to help plant trees for swamp restoration. At the moment, work is going on along the Maurepas Landbridge and in Poydras.

In the Lower 9th Ward, the Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association needs help cleaning up and maintaining 25 lots.

In the almost dozen years since the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina, New Orleanians and volunteers from across the world have worked to rebuild the city.

But there has been a strong tradition of service in New Orleans almost since the beginning of the city’s existence. Nine years after Bienville founded New Orleans on a slice of high ground along a crescent on the Mississippi River, a dozen Ursuline nuns arrived….

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