Feb. 27 is World Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Day, and — here in New Orleans — we have A LOT to celebrate. The United Nations describes an NGO as any organization “independent from government influence and is not-for-profit.”
But, more important than their definition, these groups provide benefits to individuals and communities that may not otherwise be available. They feed the hungry and give the homeless a bed. They nurture our souls and minds with access to art, music, and education. They help us recover from life-altering storms, and they teach us how to mitigate the effects of the next one.
And they do so much more than that.
Here, in New Orleans, we have hundreds (many, many hundreds) of nonprofit organizations working every single day to help improve our lives. This is a great opportunity to show our appreciation.
These are just a handful of my favorites, but go to our Facebook page and share yours in this post’s comment section.
Since the Crescent City Cafe opened its doors in 2009, they have been serving the community delicious breakfasts twice a month. Director, Adelle Bergman, said, “The goal has always been to provide a dignified and friendly dining experience to anyone who walks through our door, whether it be the homeless, elderly, low-income residents, or just someone in need of a hot meal on a Saturday morning.”
In 2018, the cafe averaged 106 guests per Saturday, and — since its founding in 2009 — they have served meals for more than 15,000 guests! But they also have bigger plans for on the horizon.
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“We’re currently raising money to open up a Pay-What-You-Can Community Restaurant,” explained Bergman. “It’ll be open every single day, and — when that happens — we’ll have the capacity to serve 15,000 guests in a year!”
Crescent City Cafe has leveraged more than 2,000 volunteer hours to serve its customers. If you’d like to help, you can learn about contributing your time here. And you can donate to that full-time restaurant here.
Be a Hero, plant a tree
Trees clean our air, soil and water, lower air temperature and electricity bills, and slow subsidence. But, as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed, New Orleans lost a devastating 100,000 trees. A city, famous for its tree-lined avenues, is now the most deforested city in America.
Because of this, several organizations — including SOUL (Sustaining Our Urban Landscape) — are doing the important work of reforesting our communities. November to March is prime tree planting season, and SOUL is doing that work block by block.
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Last week, not only did we get to bring 15 more beautiful, native trees to Hoffman Triangle….but we also got to celebrate the next year of our partnership with @urbanconservancy and their #FrontYardInitiativeprogram, @greenlightneworleans, Launch NOLA, the City of New Orleans’ Office of Resilience and Sustainability, and the residents of Hoffmann Triangle. Our incredibly hardworking @benandjerrys volunteers were superhumans today, and we want to say thanks to you guys (!!) and to the New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways for providing mulch. Stay tuned for more great things in the months to come! 🌳
Since launching in June 2016, SOUL has planted more than 1,300 large, native trees. But the thing that sets this organization apart is its dedication to planting trees in clusters — allowing them to develop into a network to maximize their benefit to the surrounding neighborhood.
If you’d like to donate, volunteer or act as a block captain, check out their website for more information!
Music for everyone
The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) performs more than 100 times each year for over 40,000 attendees. That includes everything from classics like Beethoven, to pops concerts where they play music from some of your favorite movies. (If you missed the LPO perform the soundtrack to “Jaws” last month while the actual movie was playing on a big screen behind them?…it was awesome.)
But the music isn’t just for the adults in the city. The orchestra is also very serious about its educational programming, reaching more than 120 schools and 10,000 students each year.
I caught up with Amanda Wuerstlin, the Louisiana Philharmonic’s Director of Education and Community Engagement, at a local high school recently, where the LPO was performing for more than 850 students. “New Orleans has an incredible relationship with music,” she said, “but for many students, this will be their first time seeing a live orchestral performance. Bringing the power of live classical music to them, is an honor we really enjoy and value.”
Making Philanthropy Phun
Many think philanthropy is for old, stuffy, rich people. The retired crowd need something to do with all those pennies saved and pennies earned, right?
Well, the Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans (EPNO) disagree. Founded in 2008, they’ve reminded us giving can be something for people of all ages and net worth.
EPNO members are put into teams (giving circles), responsible for donating tens of thousands of dollars to local nonprofits working in areas as diverse as education, housing, women’s rights, and much more. Today, EPNO has 400 alumni who, together, have presented $540,000 to more than 80 New Orleans nonprofit organizations.
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#Repost @wholevillagearttherapy ・・・ Whole Village Art Therapy is so thankful to @epnola for helping fund programming with our partner @electricgirlsed. This grant will be used to implement a social emotional support program for our girls group at #rootedschool. The program will address the specific needs female students have to feel supported and successful in the tech environment. We are grateful for this grant! #arttherapy #wholevillageart #wholevillagearttherapy #nolaart #neworleans #community #emergingphilanthropistsofneworleans
If you want to learn about becoming an EPNO member, you can do that here. You can also contribute to the funds the organization donates, or — if you work with a nonprofit organization — learn about applying for a grant.
These four nonprofit organizations are doing amazing and important work. But they’re also a few of so many hundreds of such groups in the city. So, for World NGO Day, pick a nonprofit important to you and make sure they know how fantastic you think they are — whether it be through a donation, volunteered time, or just a very nice email.