Looking back on how Gap Inc. has supported recovery after Hurricane Katrina.
New Orleans hasn't stopped moving forward since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. As the nation solemnly marks a decade following one of its deadliest natural disasters, Gap Inc. pauses to look back on the volunteer work that rebuilt the city — as well as all the work that still lies ahead.
Gap Foundation hosts Community Corps each year, a program that recognizes 25 employee volunteers by taking them on a three-day trip to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. The team will once again support New Orleans with a Community Corps trip to the area this fall.
Gap Inc. has been there from the beginning, giving $5 million in product, special discounts, volunteer service and cash donations toward relief efforts. In addition to Community Corps trips, the company has continued to support rebuilding through volunteer events in the region.
Furthermore, Britain Riley, the Community Market Leader for the Gap Gulf Coast region, is working with Community Leaders from local Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta stores for the Katrina 10 Citywide Day of Service initiative. The effort aims to put some 10,000 volunteers to work over seven days in the area; employees from 15 stores will be working on and with a school in the community.
According to stats from the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, Gap Inc. employees volunteered every year between 2007 and 2014. In that time, they worked on 16 different homes in five different neighborhoods, and their support helped fund seven homes.
"Everything was gone."
Bianca Patterson, an employee at the Renaissance New Orleans Arts Hotel, was one resident who lost everything after Hurricane Katrina.
She said she left before the hurricane actually hit, and after she came back, "everything was gone."
What brought her back to NOLA? The same thing that drew a lot of lifers: "Well, it's all I know. I love home, so I came back," she said.
She connected, on co-workers' recommendations, to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity despite some initial skepticism. Gap Inc. employees, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, helped build her a new home. Before she owned, Patterson was going through a Section 8 housing program — and, with a laugh, she said her life has definitely changed for the better.
Do More Than Sell Clothes
Gap Inc. employee Curtis Pinkerton, Southeast Regional Community Leader, got involved with Habitat for Humanity after the storm. He says fellow employees in NOLA rallied to support each other as they started reopening all of the stores in the region. His team felt there was so much more they could offer the community, so they pitched in to literally rebuild the city through Habitat.
"...The rewards of volunteering with my teams is a gift that can never be replaced — the connection that you make while volunteering is one that can never be duplicated," Pinkerton said, noting how rewarding it was to work on not just a structure, but a home.
"Frankly, I have realized my calling through my work at Gap Inc.," Pinkerton continued. "It is something I am personally committed to and so thankful to work for a company with a heart and one that truly empowers us all to do more than sell clothes."
This post is dedicated to New Orleans-area Community Leader and Banana Republic employee Edmund Adams, who passed away in June. Edmund was known for his constant enthusiasm, passion for people, and commitment to the community, and he is greatly missed.