LOCAL HEALTH FACILITIES SHARE THEIR COVID-19 STRUGGLES AND SUCCESSES
WE ARE HERE THIS NEW CEO IS BREAKING BARRIERS AND MAKING BIG PLANS
Voris Vigee, CEO, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana
WANT TO LOWER BENEFIT COSTS? TIPS FROM THE PROS PG. 20 RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE REPORT PG. 22
April VOLUME 07 ISSUE 07
FROM THE LENS
04 EDITOR’S NOTE 05 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 06 ON THE WEB
How can employers keep employee benefits costs down?
REAL ESTATE +CONSTRUCTION......... 22
IN THE BIZ DINING........................... 10
After almost 80 years, Barrow’s Catfish is still fresh TOURISM. . ...................... 12
French Quarter Fest temporarily moves to the fall and plans for a multi-year recovery
Why aren’t homeowners selling? What do buyers want? Experts weigh in.
WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?. . .....................................68
This Carnival season showcased entrepreneurism at its best
Nobody enjoys stopping for gas, so this new startup is bringing it to you, wherever you are
How are the courts operating right now? Are things back to normal?
SPORTS .. ....................... 14
Pelicans’ Zion Williamson’s star is rising, but playoff run remains his focus
The Louisiana Children’s Museum’s office space is designed to both inspire the staff and the people they serve
GUEST. . ........................... 26
Michael Siegel asks Michael Hecht for details on GNO, Inc.’s new Professional Jobs Plan
Champions of the most vulnerable
In its 125th year, VOASELA is under new leadership at a time when their services have never been more in need
As we start the second year in the Covid-19 era, local health facilities share their struggles and successes
ON THE JOB..........................................................................72
Opened last October, GiGi’s Playhouse New Orleans Down Syndrome Achievement Center offers free educational and therapeuticbased programs to individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
ON THE COVER Voris Vigee, CEO, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana Portrait by Edmund Fountain
Publisher Todd Matherne EDITORIAL Managing Editor Kimberley Singletary Art Director Sarah George
THERE’S AN END IN SIGHT! THANKS TO THE GLORIOUS MIRACLE OF SCIENCE, THIS MONTH I WILL
actually get to hang out inside my parents’ house again. I will get to have a real, ladies get-together where we can give each other a year’s worth of much-needed hugs. My kid is scheduled for some wonderful summer camp experiences, and I’m not terrified to send her! There’s hope that maybe I’ll be able to meet my new niece in Los Angeles at some point, that we’ll be able to visit my in-laws at their new home in Washington, heck, that we’ll be stepping onto an actual plane once again. Bring on the ginger ale and tiny bags of peanuts! Life has been on pause for so long that I feel like it’s going to be akin to experiencing all these things for the first time. You always hear, “It’s the little things that count,” and man, those little things are feeling momentous right now. When we launched Biz New Orleans in the fall of 2014, what drew me to the project was the idea that business is about people. It’s so much more than just facts and figures on a spreadsheet, it’s relationships formed over lunches, it’s making connections, it’s problem solving, it’s handshakes and cocktail hours and, in Southeast Louisiana, it’s that feeling of community, of being a part of something bigger. I can’t wait to see your faces again. I can’t wait for the events, and I can’t wait to hear how things are picking back up. As I say in our publisher’s luncheons every month, please keep us posted on what’s new with your business. With a magazine, website, blogs, newsletters and podcasts, we have so many ways to share the news! Happy Reading and See You Soon!
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Tough Decisions EVERY MONTH THE TASK THAT I STRUGGLE WITH
the most is writing this column — 200-plus words of meaningful thought to encompass what is happening now. What usually comes most natural are words about family, staff and the company. This month that is all a struggle. With family right now, we are in a holding pattern, waiting on our first grandbaby this month. I know that excitement will fuel my column for next month, so get ready. For the most part, our staff continues to work remotely. Everyone is at home doing their job and keeping things moving forward. We have our weekly Zoom meetings, and the teams are creating new ideas every month. Then there is the company. Right now, the physical office has just a few staff members. Administrative positions do not have the ability to be remote, and, as I have written in the past, I personally do not do well working from home as I value a home life/work life separation. So, here is the struggle. The questions at hand are, “Do we come back and reopen the office as before?’ and “Does our business need to have space for everyone?” These questions carry so many variations of answers, what ifs and outcomes. I’d love to know what you are doing at your office. Are you back already? Are you staying remote a little longer and planning to return in the coming months or saying goodbye to office space as you knew it and moving to a remote work environment? I would love you hear your thoughts. Email me at Todd@BizNewOrleans.com Until next month, when you will hear from “Pop,” stay safe and keep moving forward. Todd Matherne BIZNEWORLEANS.COM
ON THE WEB BIZNE WORLE ANS.COM
This expansion project is a massive triumph for our parish as we recover from COVID-19 and look to the future development of St. Bernard. We are hopeful for a flurry of logistics and warehouse developments in the coming years that will add quality jobs to the community.
WHAT YOU MISSED ON BIZNEWORLEANS.COM
Mardi Gras Express Returns “Half the condos in Florida are probably owned by people in South Louisiana. And if you ride down there in the summer, you know just how bad the traffic is — and not just on weekends anymore. Now you’ll be able to get on a train with your bags, get off and get an Uber to go to your condo instead of driving. It just makes a lot of sense.” John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and member of the Southern Rail Commission speaking about the late February announcement that Amtrak will resume service between New Orleans and Mobile in 2022. Round trips will be offered each morning and evening with stops in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula.
Meaghan McCormack, executive director of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, speaking March 10 about the groundbreaking of a new, $4 million warehouse space at the St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District’s Chalmette Terminal that will be leased by American Sugar Refining, Inc., operator of the Domino Sugar Chalmette Refinery, the largest sugar refinery in the country. Construction of the 80,000-square-foot warehouse will begin this month, with plans to be fully operational by the end of 2022.
THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS TALKING ON BIZNEWORLEANS.COM Catch all the latest news, PLUS original reporting, people on the move, videos, weekly podcast and blogs, digital editions of the magazines and daily Morning Biz and afternoon newsletters. If it’s important to business in Southeast Louisiana, it's at BizNewOrleans.com.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
BIZ TALKS PODCAST
A NEW ERA IS DAWNING FOR LIVE EVENTS. WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE? Event organizers will be making every effort to make upcoming events safer, more convenient and more engaging, but how? Conway Solomon, CEO of event tech company WRSTBND, whose recent successes include Celebration in the Oaks and Floats in the Oaks, shares some possibilities he sees for the future.
NEW ZERO WASTE AND BULK REFILL SHOP OPENS ON MAGAZINE STREET Founder and Owner Sarah Andert aims to offer New Orleanians green living options they’ve never had in a unique new offering called Vintage Green Review.
PANDEMIC PRIMATES To test COVID-19 vaccines and treatments you need primates, and the United States had a shortage even before the pandemic. Jay Rappaport, principal investigator and director of the Tulane National Primate Research Center, talks about the national partnership the center is leading to move new vaccines and treatments forward as efficiently as possible.
MEET THE SALES TEAM
Caitlin Sistrunk Sales Manager
(504) 830-7252 Caitlin@BizNewOrleans.com
Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7298 Brennan@BizNewOrleans.com
Senior Account Executive (504) 830-7255 JessicaJ@BizNewOrleans.com
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
In The Biz
PHOTO BY ZACK SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF FRENCH QUARTER FESTIVALS, INC.
BIZ COLUMNISTS SPEAK OUT
DINING After almost 80 years, Barrow’s
Catfish is still fresh
TOURISM French Quarter Fest
temporarily moves to the fall and plans for a multi-year recovery
SPORTS Pelicans’ Zion Williamson’s
star is rising, but playoff run remains his focus
ENTREPRENEUR This Carnival season
showcased entrepreneurism at its best
IN THE BIZ DINING
Still Hooked After almost 80 years, Barrow’s Catfish is still fresh BY POPPY TOOKER
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
A native New Orleanian, Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.
near the restaurant. After college, Johnson crust binds together a legacy of four had pursued a career in banking, but Barrow’s death brought him back to run the generations. This entrepreneurial tale began in 1943, family business with Deirdre. By 2004, the ambitious young couple when founder William “Cap” Barrow Sr. and his wife, Mary, opened Barrow’s Shady Inn expanded the brand with a second location in the downstairs of their Hollygrove home. on the Westbank, but Hurricane Katrina Once Cap began selling catfish sandwiches brought an end to those dreams. The out of the bar’s backdoor for 50 cents, the Johnsons evacuated to Atlanta, Georgia, with neighborhood was hooked. The business their children, where they stayed for the next quickly morphed into a restaurant with a four years, but Barrow’s rebirth was always very simple menu: fried catfish — bone in on their minds. When a location opened up on Earhart or boneless, potato salad and pie. That catfish wasn’t just any fish either. Boulevard — a short distance away from Barrow’s was closed on Mondays so Cap the original Shady Inn — they approached could make the trip down to Des Allemands the fourth generation about reviving the to select the freshest wild catfish, which he family business. Kenneth Johnson III and would process himself to ensure quality. his sister, Destyn, were working in other Mary Barrow’s soul food recipes provided fields but enthusiastically agreed to become daily specials, and her homemade sweet-but- part of the team. Barrow’s Catfish reopened its doors on tart lemonade was a signature drink. As the restaurant’s popularity grew, Cap July 6, 2018, and the community’s response installed neon signs bearing the restaurant’s was overwhelming. “People stood in line for two or three name, along with a whiskered catfish that welcomed crowds. Cap and Mary’s eldest hours until we ran out of catfish and had to son, William “Billy” Barrow Jr., became an close briefly,” said Deirdre Johnson. “They educator but he remained part of the family stayed and waited in the heat to be part of business, raising his family right next door. history.” The Johnsons said their greatest source of When Cap passed away, Barrow Jr. stepped pride is their fourth generation. up to continue the family tradition. “We go through financial statements to By the 1970s, the world had discovered Barrow’s, with clientele hailing from across show them all aspects of what it takes,” said the globe, including many celebrities. And Kenneth Johnson. “You’re always fighting for the restaurant, was all about special treat- that 10 to 15% margin. My son called very ment — for everyone. Billy Barrow’s motto upset one day over a $400 bread bill. Once he wrote that check, the things I’ve said, like, was, “Everyone is important at Barrow’s.” “He wanted the Joes in the neighborhood ‘Turn off the water,’ or ‘Fill up the garbage to feel just as important as any celebrity,” said bag before taking it out,’ meant more. It fills his daughter, Deirdre. “He’d say, ‘If you took my heart when he says, ‘Yes Dad, I got it!’ ” Barrow’s Catfish is a family business in the time to come buy my product, you’re the every way. most important person in the house.’ ” “We only have two children,” said Deirdre A chance meeting at a high school dance in the 1980s cemented Barrow’s future when Johnson, “But when you combine our Deirdre Barrow caught the eye of Kenneth employees and their households, we’ve got Johnson Jr. The pair began dating, and a big family.” n immediately became inseparable. Following the death of Deirdre’s brother, William Barrow III, in 1987, Johnson approached his girlfriend’s father to offer his help. The college student began working at Barrow’s nights and weekends. Eventually he revealed to his boss, “I would love to marry your daughter.” Johnson remembers Barrow’s laugh as he answered, “I thought you all had eloped already!” The couple married in 1991. Eight years later, the family business was Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, shaken when Billy Barrow was struck and “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and killed by a vehicle in 1999 while walking Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM. AT BARROW’S CATFISH, A CRISPY CORNMEAL
IN THE BI Z TOURISM
So Close, Yet So Far French Quarter Fest temporarily moves to the fall and plans for a multi-year recovery BY JENNIFER GIBSON SCHECTER
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.
WE’RE ALL FEELING IT – THE COVID-19 SLOG – and forged new relationships to guide us in which we’re still toiling to maintain safety and help us evolve and stay strong during measures while simultaneously counting the this crisis.” number of our vaccinated “pod” members. One of the ways FQFI pivoted during the It requires a sense of balance to mourn the pandemic was to transition from live event loved ones and opportunities we have lost in production to virtual. The organization’s first the past year and still dare to anticipate better project was a collaboration with the New days ahead. Those who work in the tourism Orleans Business Alliance to co-host Live and hospitality industry feel that acutely. from the Porch, a virtual concert that raised And now it’s springtime in New Orleans, money for the Gig Economy Fund. The staff what would normally be “festival season”— if applied lessons learned from that event to there was not an ongoing global pandemic. produce two more successful virtual events, While our traditional April events cannot Seven Days of Satch presented by Chevron, return this month, we dare to look toward and the Holidays New Orleans Style Virtual the fall for rescheduled, retooled festivals. Concert Series. They also created a Virtual French Quarter Fest, presented by Chevron, Village on their website to promote the the beloved weekend music, food and efforts of their vendors, partners and artists culture festival that hires more than 1,500 who typically participate during live events. Louisiana musicians, will hold its 2021 event Event organizers are easing into the “new Sept. 30 – Oct. 3. Festival organizers worked normal” and advancing preparations for with city officials and public health experts large events as the pandemic tapers off. — as well as stakeholders and industry peers Madero said, “We’re communicating regu— to select the date in accordance with the larly with our local public health officials and city’s rebound and anticipated vaccination doing all that we can to research and prepare rates. The 2021 event will have a modified for additional safety and sanitation measures, layout and measures in place that adhere to but we still have a long way to go before CDC protocols and guidelines. next fall. We’ll roll out a detailed plan that The impact of festival cancellation on the is appropriate for the current environment financial health of the city and organizations closer to our event. like French Quarter Festivals, Inc. (FQFI), “We expect our recovery to be a multiwhich runs French Quarter Fest, will be year effort. Even with the return of live felt for years. In 2019, an estimated 825,000 entertainment, FQFI will have to absorb a people attended French Quarter Fest and significant financial loss in order to produce created an economic impact of nearly $200 French Quarter Festival in 2021. We know million. The 2020 festival was canceled due our community craves the celebrations that to COVID-19. will bring us back together and our local Emily Madero, president and CEO businesses need us now more than ever. In of FQFI, said the cancellations due to spite of all of the challenges and uncertainty, COVID-19 have been a serious threat to this is why we remain committed to bringing the organization. FQFI experienced a 92% back our events as soon as we can safely loss in its earned income as a result of the produce festivals. We rely on the generosity pandemic. Madero credits the outpouring of our sponsors and our fans to keep French of support from partners and fans, as well Quarter Festival free and to provide competas generous donations to their Resiliency itive wages for the musicians and all of the Campaign and virtual programming, for gig economy workers who bring our events keeping the nonprofit organization running to life.” and allowing it to have a chance to continue Booking for French Quarter Festival is its mission. well underway, with the promise of festival “It’s not really a surprise, but COVID favorites as well as debut artists. Madero has shown me that FQFI and its small-but- said to watch for a big reveal this summer. mighty team can adapt and thrive despite Fans can stay up to date and sign up for the seemingly impossible circumstances. We online newsletter at frenchquarterfest.org. have continued to remain productive and After more than a year of being in socially true to our mission — that’s pretty amazing!” distanced groups of 12 or less, I can’t wait said Madero. “We have learned so much, for someone to bump into my back while from best practices for safety and sanitation we’re both waiting in line to buy an oyster to adapting to virtual production. The theme Rockefeller poor boy. n is resilience. Our team has learned new skills, become knowledgeable about public health,
IN THE BIZ SPORTS
Glory of Zion Pelicans’ Zion Williamson’s star is rising, but playoff run remains his focus BY CHRIS PRICE
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
That’s what former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry blurted out when the team won the No. 1 pick in the NBA’s 2019 draft lottery, ensuring they’d be able to select Zion Williamson, a player who many experts described as a once-in-a-generation type athlete. Williamson — who combines smarts and size with lightning quickness and leaping ability — brought instant fanfare and expectations to New Orleans. His weight, however — he was listed as the secondheaviest player in the league to start the season —combined with a preseason injury, severely impacted his rookie year and had experts questioning if the first overall pick was ready for the big time. Now healthy, however, his potential is being revealed. At 6 feet, 7 inches, and 284 pounds, Williamson has been physically compared to NBA legends LeBron James, Charles Barkley and Larry Johnson, but he also has an explosive first step, the ability to change direction, and ball-handling and passing skills like Magic Johnson. Since the end of January, he’s led one of the NBA’s hottest offenses. Last month, he was a starter in his first All-Star Game appearance, and this month Nike’s Jordan brand will release his first signature shoe. Although their record through the first half of the season is similar to last year’s result, New Orleans saw a notable improvement in the second quarter of this season. At the All-Star break, the Pelicans stood at 15-21, 11th in Western Conference, but the team has seen a massive offensive upgrade since the end of January, much of which has pivoted on Williamson’s play and the team’s ability to use him in multiple positions on the floor, especially running the offense from the top of the key. Through the first half of the season, Williamson has already played in 34 games and improved every metric minus his 3-point percentage. His play is setting or matching decades-old NBA records and he is the first player since the shot-clock era began in 1954-55 to average 23 or more points per game on 60% shooting in their first 50 career games. He is on pace to join Kevin McHale as the only players in NBA history to average more than 25 points per game on 60% shooting over a season. The Pelicans’ decision to let Williamson move from his position in the post to handling the ball like a guard has created mismatches for opposing defenses, allowing
New Orleans to emerge as one of the best offenses in the NBA. With his speed, a single defender can’t stop him one-on-one when he drives inside. That provides easy buckets. If other defenders abandon their man to help provide double- and triple-team coverage to try to stop Williamson, that creates passing lanes to open, unguarded teammates. In an interview with The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, Pelicans president David Griffin praised Williamson’s range of skills. “Zion is so physically overwhelming in the paint that people just think he’s a freak-of-nature power forward, and that’s all he is. But he played point guard basically his entire life before he got to Duke. His stepfather raised him with the ball in his hand to make decisions like a point guard. He measures himself by his ability to make people better.” Williamson earned his first All-Star Game appearance last month and was named a starter in place of Joel Embiid, who had to sit out due to COVID-19 safety protocols. In 14 minutes, he had 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting and one rebound. This month, he will reach a cultural milestone in his career when his signature shoe, the Jordan Z Code, hits retail stores. With all of the hullabaloo and potential distractions, look for Head Coach Stan Van Gundy and the core group of Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to focus the team on shoring and improving its defensive play in order to get to the postseason for the first time since the 2017-2018 season. “It’s a privilege to be named an All-Star,” Williamson said in the event’s postgame press conference. “In the second half of the season you gotta continue to show why you feel like you deserve to be an All-Star. My mindset is on helping my team win, and that’s where all my focus is going to be.” n
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.
IN THE BIZ ENTREPRENEUR
Purple, Green, Gold & Sold This Carnival season showcased entrepreneurism at its best BY KEITH TWITCHELL
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Face masks — COVID-19 style, not Carnival style — with Mardi Gras themes were widely available. All kinds of clever T-shirts and other apparel, both lamenting and making light of the situation, popped up everywhere. Perhaps none of them expressed it all better than one from Dirty Coast, which featured a purple, green and gold version of a certain beer logo and read “Mardi Lite: half the crowds, double the fun.” King cake sales went through the roof, as people sought any opportunity for a taste of typical Carnival. Bakers offered a wide variety of flavors, from tiramisu and Cajun Mud on the sweet side to crawfish and boudin on the savory side. King cake doughnuts and keto diet-friendly king cakes were available, and there was even King Cake Rum from Happy Raptor Distillery. Not all were successful; sales of the “peel and eat shrimp” and “sushi” king cakes failed to meet their inventors’ expectations. The old saw about turning lemons into lemonade is the core of the entrepreneurial spirit — and a real entrepreneur comes up with six flavors of lemonade, some alcoholic versions (at least in New Orleans), and, in this case, a line of Mardi Gras-themed lemonade pitchers, glasses and cocktail napkins. Despite the severe but necessary restrictions on how we could all enjoy our Carnival traditions, we collectively made the most of it, hopefully safely, and showed the world, once again, that no one is as resilient as the people of Southeast Louisiana. Besides, who wanted to go out for Mardi Gras in an ice storm anyway ….n
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY T O N Y H E A L E Y
Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.
E N T R E P R E N E U R I S M H A S I T S P R AC T I C A L
definitions and applications, but underlying it is a spirit — an essential conviction that success is possible no matter the circumstances. That entrepreneurial spirit was displayed spectacularly during Carnival 2021, turning what might have been a very melancholy time into plenty of opportunities for festivity and appropriate celebration. One early example of this was Krewe du Vieux, the satirical and bawdy marching group that usually meanders through Marigny and the French Quarter. Many of the krewe’s subkrewes created stationary installations riffing on their theme of “Krewe du Vieux Has No Taste.” Satirical expression prevailed, and some of the subkrewes used their installations as fundraisers for musicians, grocery store workers and others. This notion of stationary Carnival and moving people was also embraced by City Park, whose “Floats in the Oaks” lined up more than 40 iconic floats from across the spectrum of New Orleans parades — from the Muses shoe to the Rex Boeuf Gras. Flambeaux and socially distanced dancers added to the spectacle. The drive-by event was a fundraiser for the financially beleaguered park, and it sold out, thus helping to sustain a New Orleans institution while giving thousands of people at least a small taste of parading. For sheer scale, nothing surpassed the house floats. This concept seemed to emerge from several sources, including the Krewe of Red Beans and Mardi Gras World, and rapidly took on a life of its own. Formally, funds were raised to hire float artists whose income dried up with the parade cancelations, and a lottery was held to identify houses to be decorated by these talented artisans. Informally, people everywhere in the city and region caught the spirit and decorated their own homes. More than 3,000 houses registered with the Krewe of House Floats just in the city, with a similar number across the metro area. Reports came in of Mardi Gras houses as far away as Atlanta and California. This is the entrepreneurial spirit at its best: One of our greatest cultural traditions got shut down, and our response was to create a new cultural tradition. House floats will undoubtedly become a permanent part of Carnival going forward. Mardi Gras creativity and entrepreneurism were also expressed in the world of commerce.
Perspectives HOT TOPICS IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA INDUSTRIES
INSURANCE How can employers keep
employee benefits costs down?
REAL ESTATE+CONSTRUCTION Residential Real
Estate Report: Why aren’t homeowners selling? What do buyers want? Experts weigh in.
LAW How are the courts operating
right now? Are things back to normal?
GUEST Two Mikes Talk Jobs
PERSPECTIVES INSUR ANCE
MICHAEL GREENE ASSOCIATE - BENEFITS EAGAN INSURANCE AGENCY We are limited to just a handful of carriers that provide employersponsored health coverage in Louisiana. Therefore, it’s important to choose a broker that understands your business and the benefits package you want. Even when rates continue to rise, a good broker can come up with creative solutions and strategies to meet your budget. If you’re not confident your broker is your trusted advisor I’d advise allowing other agents to evaluate your plan(s) starting three months prior to your renewal.
Left unchecked, the typical rate of inflation on a fully insured plan will compound growth at an unsustainable 7% annually. Costs of “designer” drugs, and unhealthy member utilization all help drive increases. Fortunately, captive solutions, reference-based pricing, spousal incentives and most importantly, the “unbundling” of plan designs are upon us, driving down employer healthcare spend. Shaun Norris, President of Hub International
RHONDA BAGBY MARKET VICE PRESIDENT, LOUISIANA & SOUTH MS HUMANA
How can employers keep employee benefits costs down?
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
There has been a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine services, which can remove barriers to accessing primary care services, especially in areas with physician shortages. This is important because those who use a primary care physician regularly have fewer healthcare costs and better outcomes than those who do not, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Virtual care improves access and creates the opportunity for employers to provide a higher value health plan to employees at a lower premium cost.
EMMETT G. DUPAS III LEAD PARTNER BIENVILLE CAPITAL GROUP NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL Consider the costs associated with retirement plans as former employees carrying balances may have fees still being charged to the company. The largest cost with most plans is the company match. Reviewing it can be beneficial, but remember it could affect discrimination testing. We always encourage companies to work through different match scenarios. In some instances, cutting the match could even lead to a large amount of required company contributions to the plan.
PERSPECTIVES RE AL ESTAT E+CONST RUC T ION
Residential Real Estate Report: Why aren’t homeowners selling? What do buyers want? Experts weigh in. BY RICH COLLINS
RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE DURING THE
pandemic is a tale of two cities. While some renters and homeowners are struggling to make ends meet and relying on federal aid and mortgage forbearance to stay in their homes, those fortunate to have sufficient resources are finding this real estate market to be a land of opportunity. It’s a buyer’s market and a seller’s market rolled into one. “Because of low housing inventory, homeowners are selling at higher prices than we have seen in a while, with many listings resulting in multiple offer scenarios within hours of hitting the market” said real estate agent Stacie Carubba. So, what are buyers looking for during this unprecedented year? According to experts, they want … everything. “Buyers want a turnkey property,” said Carubba. “House hunting, browsing for properties and scrolling through pretty listing photos on popular real estate apps has become a favorite pastime of many. Many buyers also have unrealistic expectations due to social media and HGTV.” Carubba said it’s important for sellers to make the best first impression possible when hitting the market since there are so many high expectations. She provides light staging and decluttering services for all her sellers and has a pre-listing and photo prep process that ensures listings are eye-catching when they hit the market. Marty Brantley, license partner and CEO of Engel & Völkers New Orleans, said buyers’ priorities have changed. “It used to be all about stainless appliances and granite counters,” he said. “Now, real estate agents are seeing a greater emphasis placed on how the home functions. Buyers want efficient closets, multiple workspaces, and plenty of room for the whole family to
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Buyers want efficient closets, multiple workspaces, and plenty of room for the whole family to be comfortable. Marty Brantley, CEO Engel & Volkers New Orleans
be comfortable.” He added that interestingly, there are as many buyers looking for highly functional smaller spaces as for bigger homes. Bron Hebert, with the Francher Perrin Group, said there’s been a dramatic increase in buyers looking for enhanced outdoor spaces: large backyards, swimming pools and front porches. Home offices and bonus rooms, of course, have become highly desirable features as well. Bill Baker, a broker at RE/MAX, said that new construction is hot right now in many areas of the market. “ W hen buyers have the option of purchasing a home with brand-new systems, the most up-to-date finishes and features and appliances, they often forgo the renovated home or fixer-upper,” he said. In addition, he said, buyers appreciate the peace of mind of the Louisiana Home Warranty Act, which requires the builder to warrant certain aspects of the construction for up to five years. EXPANDED SEARCH
According to Brantley, in-demand neighborhoods include the usual suspects: In Jefferson Parish, the greater Old Metairie area and Old Jefferson near Ochsner’s main campus are hot. In Orleans Parish, Uptown remains as sought-after as ever, followed
by the Lakeview/Lakefront communities. Hebert adds Gentilly to the list — especially for new construction and first-time homebuyers. Buyers have also shown a willingness to expand their search, since the office commute has become less of an issue. The Northshore is becoming increasingly popular due to the volume of affordable homes with larger back yards and in-ground pools, said Hebert. And buyers looking for a great deal on a historic home are expanding their search to include Algiers Point. Belle Alliance Estate in Donaldsonville, meanwhile, is a great example of the distance buyers are willing to go to find what they’re looking for, Hebert said. “It features a meticulously restored center-hall style home, which sits on 10.5 acres of land and includes a glass-enclosed greenhouse for the horticulture enthusiasts,” he said. “Buyers can work from home in Donaldsonville, and they’re only an hour away from New Orleans and 30 minutes to Baton Rouge.” Brantley said this newfound freedom of movement doesn’t only lead buyers farther from the center of town. A recent purchase made by one of his clients is a great example. “She’s an employee of one of the many businesses situated in the office parks on the
Northshore,” he said, “but now she has the ability to live and work from a condo in the Warehouse District without the long commute.”
The real estate market is going to BOOM WILL CONTINUE Most experts agree with Stacie Carubba that “the continue to real estate market is going to continue to boom boom through through 2021, but may level off next year as rates 2021, but continue to increase and buyer demand slows.” may level off “We are sorely lacking inventory at this time,” next year as said Brantley. “That’s the reason the market rates continue should remain active through the remainder to increase of this year. The biggest threat is a prolonged and buyer pandemic, more job losses or an unexpected and demand slows. significant rise in rates.”
“Evidence suggests that as long as the interest rates remain low, we will continue to see sustained activity in the local market,” said Hebert. “While mortgage rates have slightly trended upward this last week, consumer confidence increased for the first time in four months and rates remain in a historically low range, so I think we’ll continue to see a thriving market as long as rates remain low.” “Interest rates have crept up over the 3% mark in the past few days, and have seen some isolated one-day spikes over the last several months,” said Baker. “However, these numbers are still the lowest since Freddie Mac started tracking rates in 1971.”
Real Estate Agent Stacie Carubba
For a variety of reasons, homeowners just aren’t selling right now. Many are fearful about letting strangers in their home in the middle of a pandemic. Others are overwhelmed by the thought of moving. And some are just scraping by and are staying in their homes thanks to programs offering them mortgage forbearance, so they aren’t in a position to make big plans. The average age of homeowners is another factor, said Baker. “The largest number of homeowners are Baby Boomers or older,” he said. “During the pandemic, these potential sellers are less likely to allow access to their homes or sell to move into assisted living or nursing homes. With inventory so scarce, sellers may fear that they will not be able to find a new home.” Brantley thinks vaccinations will increase consumer confidence and encourage more sellers to enter the market. “There are certainly homeowners who under normal circumstances may have considered moving over the last year or this year but chose not to in order to further limit potential exposure to COVID-19,” he said. “Those homeowners are not going to appear as sellers until we have the pandemic in the rearview mirror.” n
PERSPECTIVES L AW
STEVEN J. LANE
HONORABLE BERNADETTE D’SOUZA
PARTNER HERMAN, HERMAN & KATZ
CHIEF JUDGE ORLEANS CIVIL DISTRICT COURT
It is as well as could be expected, but it is far from back to normal and may not be for several years. Jury trials are virtually non-existent as it is difficult to put 50 to 100 potential jurors in a room, and even if a jury of 12 were chosen, you cannot expect people to sit next to someone who may be carrying the virus. There is also a longer wait to get courts to hear preliminary motions. Issues related to pre-trial discovery, contempt and other procedural matters are often heard secondary to more emergency issues.
JAMES M. WILLIAMS ATTORNEY CHEHARDY SHERMAN WILLIAMS The necessary limits on access to jurors has created severe logistical challenges. Unfortunately, videoconferencing cannot substitute for in-person trials because of the jury’s duty to evaluate the demeanor and credibility of witnesses. Thankfully, judges and courts have been proactive and creative about preserving litigants’ access to justice. My team is involved in jury trials from coast to coast, and I have found Louisiana judges to be more diligent than most about continuing to push cases toward conclusion in a safe and responsible manner.
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How are the courts operating right now? Are things back to normal?
BEN B. SAUNDERS FOUNDING PARTNER DAVIS, SAUNDERS & MILLER, PLC
We have leveraged technology to help keep cases moving, and we also hold matters in person as needed. We have implemented a staggered docket with social distancing protocols as per the guidelines from the city and state, and the CDC. Periodic moratoriums on jury trials have caused a backlog of cases, but we have safely held two trials during the pandemic. We have been open since May 2020, and continue to administer justice in the context of our new ‘normal.’
Things are not back to normal. In fact, COVID-19 is probably the most disruptive disease since the pandemics in the early part of the last century. In federal court in New Orleans, jury trials have been pushed to the fall and the court’s staff are working at home. Hearings are generally held by Zoom and some state courts, and certain judges, have experimented with in-person jury trials. Everything is abnormal, and the legal system is on the horns of a dilemma as to when and how to proceed as time moves on.
J. GREGG COLLINS
FOUNDER, OWNER GREGG COLLINS MEDIATION ARBITRATION
MANAGING PARTNER BARRASSO USDIN KUPPERMAN FREEMAN & SARVER
Three-and-a-half years after opening my company I am mediating online 90% or more of the time. “Zoom” forward to 2020 and that cartoon word meaning “go fast” became a noun, a verb and a way of life for this mediator and the world in general. Over the past year, technology has enabled many to work with others, despite being isolated at home or alone in the office. As Winston Churchill said, ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ We have all had to be optimists while being realistic enough to weather the storm of COVID-19.
Our law firm focuses on complex civil litigation. Are things back to normal in that arena? Not exactly, but that’s not necessarily bad news. At the beginning, many cases ground to a halt, with courts postponing hearings and trials. Last summer, I had two trials by Zoom before judges (not juries). At the time, it was a novelty; now it feels like a viable option even after the pandemic is over. The biggest challenge is how to handle jury trials in a safe and effective manner, but I believe that courts, lawyers and clients have all learned new ways to work more efficiently and effectively.
Two Mikes Talk Jobs
get to the point where every citizen has the chance to get a job that best fits their interests and talents and lets them support the family. This requires job diversity. The difference about the Professional Jobs Plan is that it is the first time we are specifically targeting companies and jobs for our commercial office buildings, for example those on Poydras Street, Causeway Boulevard, and in more suburban locations like Northpark in Covington. This targeting — more site specific and use specific than industry specific — is novel.
Michael Siegel asks Michael Hecht for details on GNO, Inc.’s new Professional Jobs Plan
MJS: What will this plan mean for the region? MH: The Professional Jobs Plan will help form the foundation upon which people build careers and support families. It will mean more people shopping at stores, eating at restaurants, living in apartments and homes, sending kids to schools, and paying taxes in our community. Everyone will benefit.
Michael J. Siegel, SIOR, is president and director of office leasing at Corporate Realty, Inc., a full-service commercial real estate agency based in New Orleans.
Michael J. Siegel: What was the impetus to create the Professional Jobs Plan? Michael Hecht: One of the greatest needs in Greater New Orleans is for more professional office jobs. To illustrate this, consider that 25% of Tulane graduates stay after graduation, but 40% would stay if they could find a job. There is a lot of upside to be mined for the region! The good news is that New Orleans has a very strong business case for office jobs: low costs, great culture, a diverse workforce and excellent support organizations. We just have to get the word out! And that is what the Professional Jobs Plan is going to do: target companies in specific industries, and market to them to open offices and create jobs in our region. The
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timing is especially auspicious now because, post-COVID-19, professionals are leaving bigger, denser cities and seeking second-tier markets like New Orleans. MJS: Why do you feel this is so important? GNO, Inc., services 10 parishes and is involved in recruiting from many industries for our entire region. This includes distribution centers, petrochemical companies along the river and potential office tenants in all of the parishes you service. What is different about this endeavor? MH: The key to a healthy economy is diversification — COVID-19 has made that point emphatically. So, industrial jobs are important, but so are office jobs. We want to
Michael Hecht is president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc., the economic development agency for Southeast Louisiana.
MJS: What is GNO, Inc.’s strategy and timeline, and how will you implement this plan? MH: Our strategy is to target three verticals: software and video games; shared services; and regional headquarters. We will follow an intentional process that starts with research, then goes to marketing, then tours and selling. After we close deals, we will assist with helping to recruit talent, and then anything else companies need to be successful. MJS: What are the primary attributes of New Orleans that you believe will make us, and has made us, so attractive to office relocation? MH: Our costs are much lower than cities with comparable amenities and name-brand, and our incentives, like the 25% software incentive, are some of the best in America. Our culture is loved around the world. The diversity of our workforce is attractive. And, finally, I would put the support that we give our companies — from our higher education institutions, to our nonprofits — against anyone in the country. Like I tell people, New Orleans is San Francisco at half the cost with nicer people and even better food.
You can learn more about GNO, Inc’s Professional Jobs Plan in Corporate Realty’s Greater New Orleans Annual Office Market Report. Visit Corp-realty.com/reports to download your free copy. To learn more about GNO, Inc., visit GNOInc.org. n
In its 125th year, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana is under new leadership at a time when their services have never been more needed.
CHAMPIONS of the most vulnerable
B Y R E B E C C A F R I E D M A N P H OTO S B Y E D M U N D F O U N TA I N
W W H E N VO LU N T E E R S O F A M E R I C A began serving New Orleans in 1896, the city was years into a yellow fever outbreak so horrific it had earned it the nickname “Necropolis,” or city of the dead. Now, in the midst of another pandemic, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana (VOASELA) — one of the largest human services providers in the region — has chosen a new leader, Voris Vigee. After working her waxy up in the organization for 27 years, Vigee officially became the first woman and first Black president and CEO of Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana this past January.
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Founded in the Cooper Union Auditorium in New York City on March 8, 1896 by social reformers Ballington and Maud Booth in an effort to serve the country’s most vulnerable populations, Volunteers of America currently operates in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, providing an array of services to seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, at-risk youth and more. Headquartered at 4152 Canal Street in New Orleans, the Southeast Louisiana affiliate offers more than 20 programs across a 16-parish area that serve over 47,000 people annually. The nonprofit wears plenty of hats — in addition to being a licensed adoption agency, it’s also a behavioral health service provider for those with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities, provides an array of youth and family services and programs for seniors, and is a huge provider of affordable housing in Southeast Louisiana. In January, Renaissance Neighborhood Development Corporation, a subsidiary of VOASELA, received a $16 million bond from the Louisiana Housing Corporation to develop 110 affordable rental units in East Baton Rouge Parish. Developments in New Orleans include Terraces on Tulane in Mid-City, Elysian Courtyards and Centennial Place, which features 52 units of residential rental apartments, as well as a commercial kitchen that is home to Fresh Food Factor, another VOASELA program that provides fresh and healthy meals to New Orleans school children. Since last May, VOASELA has also contracted with the Louisiana Department of Health to facilitate COVID-19 resources throughout the state. Once an individual speaks with a state contact tracer and indicates that they need assistance with food, lodging, medical care, quarantining, etc., VOASELA is notified. The organization then reaches out to the person in need and helps them get access to resources in their area. To date, VOASELA has aided over 28,000 Louisianans in this way. Surprisingly, even with such a wide array of good works and a long history in the community, Vigee says the organization still suffers from a lack of awareness, but if she has her way, that won’t be true for long. In the meantime, though, there’s a lot of work to be done.
What services are in greatest demand in Southeast Louisiana? Housing. Besides Renaissance Neighborhood Development Corporation, we also work with our other two affiliates in Louisiana – Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge and Volunteers of America North Louisiana — [in instances like] the hurricanes that impacted Lake Charles or the 2016 flood in Baton Rouge. New housing is a huge need. Also, children and family. It’s important that we have services available for at-risk youth.
Volunteers of America was founded by the son of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. Following disagreements between Salvation Army leadership, the younger Booth and his wife, Maud (seen here), left and formed the new organization in 1896.
During the pandemic, some kids are lenge, and we have been able to not attending school the way they mitigate it in myriad ways. Some should because virtual has worn of the underserved population did them out or they don’t have access, not have viable transportation to and they are doing things that they begin with. When you live in rural should not be. communities, trying to get to your We serve a large veteran popula- doctors’ appointments or whatever tion here in our community and for community resource you were those who are experiencing home- trying to access, the pandemic just lessness, Volunteers of America has compounded the challenge. We’ve done a very good job of meeting tried to mitigate that by providing the need. Another need relates to services virtually… calling and opioids – parts of the parishes in checking on folks to see how they which we serve are really hit by are doing mentally. The pandemic that, so we are trying to serve the has increased the level of isolation community affected. And folks — not being able to access medical living with mental health issues, or other services, or even just which don’t just affect underserved socialization. populations, they affect all populaYou’ve got to think about things tions, and the pandemic only exac- differently. How do you provide a erbates that situation. We currently service or give an individual access? don’t have a lot of work being done That’s where innovation comes into in the arena of substance abuse, but place – typically out of crises. You we are looking to do work in that have to have those conversations space in the near future. on a national level with partnering and affiliate organizations — we’re What have been the biggest not here to solve this problem in a challenges facing your constitbubble. The pandemic has taught us uents over the past year? that out of challenge comes opporAccess. Access to much-needed tunity to do things better, to think services. That has been a chal- differently.
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We’ve done pretty well with that as an organization because the people have been committed. Our frontline staff never missed a beat; they never complained. I will always be grateful to our front-line workers. But for them and God, we would not be here today.
What does the strategic roadmap look like for the organization? One of the things we have charged ourselves with in the f irst six months of 2021 is a new strategic plan. It needs to reflect the diversity of the population that we serve, of the people we work alongside of and support in the community. It also needs to reflect innovative ideas that will end up spurring this community to greater heights, where we are able to serve people with long-term impact, not just place a Band-Aid. We are partnering with Open Minds [consultants to organizations in the health and human services field] to assist us with our strategic plan. Surveys are going out to all staff, not just the leaders and middle managers, to give them the opportunity to share their voices. Some of the best ideas come from the frontline workers, the boots on the ground, so we have to be able to cultivate those ideas. Our board is heavily invested and involved in this process. There are some folks who think their job is to govern, but their job is also to ensure that the vision is fulfilled. We are increasing the diversity of our board — of experience, thought, people, geographical communities in which we serve. Our organization needs to be more representative of the communities in which we serve so we can make better decisions for the future. We are here for the people. But for the people, we would not have a job. Our mission calls us to do this great and necessary work. And [our staff members] get it. Their words matter, their voices matter. Reiterating that culture is important. The culture we are cultivating is important because people are watching, people are
depending on us. We have to make sure we deliver what we promise.
What led you to this work? I’m originally from Chicago. My parents sent me here to Xavier University because my dream back then was to become a pediatrician and open a clinic in an underserved neighborhood. As I was finishing up my sophomore year of college, I got a job working in a group home setting where folks with intellectual disabilities resided. The goal there was for residents to eventually live independently in the community with minimal support. I ended up working with one of the residents at this group home. The doctors had a very pessimistic viewpoint as to the abilities of the individual. I worked with this guy — he was younger than me — day in, day out, and started to see a difference. He was smiling, he would laugh. He couldn’t communicate his needs and wants verbally, but he knew sign language. He would try to sign to me. It changed the course
VOASELA has provided disaster assistance multiple times over its 125-year history, including with Hurricane Betsy in 1965. As part of its work during COVID-19, since last May the organization has contracted with the Louisiana Department of Health to provide resources to over 28,000 people in Southeast Louisiana.
of my future because, whether it was solely me or a collective effort, I felt like I was making a difference in that young boy’s life. I worked for that organization for a short period of time and at another organization prior to Volunteers of America, working with the intellectual disability population. I love all vulnerable populations, but that population has a very strong handprint on my heart. Advocating for them to make sure people see their abilities, not their disability, that they are people just like us and should not be treated any differently. I love New Orleans. I married a New Orleans boy. I have three kids. Doing this type of work but still taking care of family is very important to me. My faith is extremely strong: God first, family second, everything else comes behind.
What organizational priorities matter most to you, personally? I would love to see diversity, equity, inclusion as part of the fabric of this organization. It wasn’t part of the foundation, unfortunately, but can definitely be woven into the fabric moving forward. It will stand as a pillar within our strategic plan and be embedded within our culture. I stress to my staff integrity, transparency and accountability. Be accountable for your actions and for one another because we are one team. We want to be able to
lead with integrity, to have a servant heart and a business mind. If we don’t make money, we can’t be of value to the community at large because in order to create new programs, you need money. Technology is a big area that we would like to see enhanced within this organization. We have just invested in two electronic health record systems. They are going to serve individuals who have behavioral health issues — mental health and substance issues and [the] intellectual disability population. It will allow us to interface with the claims billing process and create metrics to track quality outcomes. We want to be able to know how we are performing. The other thing — we want Volunteers of America not to be that best-kept secret. We want to brand the organization where people understand what we do. People need to know that we are more than just donated cars. The cars serve a great purpose of generating dollars to support funding gaps for some of our programs, but that’s not all we do.
What more do you want people to know about the organization’s mission? The reality of it is that all of our families are affected by vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations don’t necessarily mean folks who are poverty stricken. Someone may be a senior who needs to have a ramp built or grab bars installed in their home — we do that [Repairs on Wheels, which helps the elderly age in place]. We have seniors who retire and want to be able to give back and volunteer their time. We connect them to volunteering with schools, with other businesses. We provide counseling — not just crisis counseling but also marriage, anger management and mental health counseling. We have all sorts of resources available. We have over 20 programs — a lot of people don’t realize that — from birth to elderly. We build housing. I want people to say, ‘Wow, I want to be a part of that. They’re doing great work.’ They may not want to work with veterans but love working with children, seniors, people affected by HIV and AIDS or babies in our adoption program. We have something for everyone if they want to give back to the community, but they have to know who we are. Our ministry is a ministry of service. Our work is our ministry. We are an interdenominational church. We welcome all people — of faith and no faith — we don’t discriminate. Our doors are open to all people, to receive or provide services.
How does being the first woman and the first African American in this leadership role shape your perspective? Kamala Harris said it more eloquently than I could ever say it: ‘I may be the first, but I will not be the last.’ It is my responsibility to ensure that doors are open, that there is equity, parity, oppor-
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(top) During the Great Depression, Volunteers of America opened food stores where all items cost just one cent! The stores were known as “Penny Pantries.” While Penny Pantries have disappeared, the organization does operate thrift stores across the country. (bottom) During World War II, Volunteers of America spearheaded community salvage drives, collecting millions of pounds of scrap metal, rubber and fiber for the war effort.
tunities for growth for all people. To develop folks, that if they choose to continue to do this great work in our community with Volunteers of America, that they are prepared. I want to make sure people have the opportunity to learn, grow, to educate themselves, be a part of something bigger than us because it’s never about us. It’s about the people. In this role, I feel like have an obligation — and it’s a wonderful obligation and weight to carry — to give folks the opportunity they need, if they choose to work for it.
How can individuals and businesses support your work? Share our story. Call us. Call me.
We say donate your time, talent, treasure — it doesn’t always need to be money. We want you to be a part of this. That includes bringing business partners to the table. What we do affects businesses out there, not just the underserved population. But they need to know who we are and what we do, so we are inviting them to opportunities like our community forums. Volunteers of America cannot do this work alone. We need the business community, we need those who care about one another, to do great work. Like they say, closed mouths don’t get fed — we are asking for their support. n
year AS WE START THE SECOND YEAR IN THE COVID-19 ERA, LOCAL HEALTH FACILITIES SHARE THEIR STRUGGLES AND SUCCESSES BY KEITH TWITCHELL
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has severely taxed every single component of the healthcare system in the United States. None, however, has been more stretched and stressed than medical facilities of all sizes. In many locations, the unthinkable became routine: patients waiting in ambulances for three hours due to a lack of emergency room space; elective surgeries postponed; patients delaying treatment for other diseases due to COVID-19 fears, sometimes with serious — even fatal — consequences. As elective surgeries and procedures generate more revenue than emergency care, it’s understandable that many medical facilities are struggling financially. Add to that the fact that obtaining the specialized equipment and supplies to treat COVID-19 patients has also been costly, especially in a seller’s market. A study conducted by Texas A&M University estimated that hospitals lost between $1,000 and $3,000 per COVID-19 patient. Hospitals also incurred extra personnel costs to maintain adequate treatment staff over the past year. A nationwide nursing shortage during pandemic peaks forced facilities to provide higher pay and sometimes bonuses to attract sufficient qualified staff; some even provided housing or childcare, further adding to their costs. At the same time, staff from other areas of treatment were furloughed or released as demand for their services fell. The human toll on the doctors and nurses has been particularly severe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released figures at
the end of February 2021 indicating that more than 412,000 medical workers had contracted COVID-19, and nearly 1,500 had died from the disease — data that the CDC believes is actually a very conservative estimate. There have also been serious mental health impacts on medical workers. In addition to watching countless patients die under particularly difficult circumstances, many doctors and nurses have had to quarantine away from their families, work highly extended hours, and sometimes work outside their areas of specialty. The result has been fatigue, anxiety, depression, PTSD; in one extreme case, a top emergency room physician in New York City committed suicide due to being overwhelmed by the situation. In response to personnel issues, some hospitals have brought retired doctors and nurses back on staff. North Dakota even allowed COVID-19-positive nurses to keep working. Needless to say, this has not helped the quality of patient care. And because too much is never enough, IBM estimates that cyberattacks against hospitals have doubled since the start of the pandemic. These have often been ransomware attacks, as criminals surmise that hospitals cannot afford down time and are more likely to pay. A STEEP LEARNING CURVE Local facilities never reached the dire situation of patient overflow; for example, at its peak, University Medical Center in New Orleans gave 59% of its patient beds to COVID-19 cases. Nonetheless, non-emergency procedures were postponed, the hospital had to make adjustments like converting post-operation recovery rooms into extra ICUs, and staffing concerns were frequent.
Moreover, the disease itself, as a new virus, created its own set of issues. “Our biggest challenge was probably understanding the modalities of the disease, because that has been changing and evolving,” said Michael Griffin, president and CEO of DePaul Community Health Centers. DePaul has 10 community health centers throughout the Greater New Orleans region, as well as mobile units, and also has a presence in 23 area schools, which meant their 325 staff members saw and treated a wide variety of patients. DePaul responded by mobilizing quickly to provide virtual care via telehealth processes, but Griffin noted that “it was difficult to provide the same level of treatment, especially for patients with chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension. It was very disruptive.” DePaul’s health centers also had to reduce services such as dentistry and optometry to emergency care only, as in-person visits to the facilities were kept to a minimum. At the same time, the centers had to make the switch to providing COVID-19 testing safely and efficiently; to date, the DePaul facilities have tested some 10,000 patients. All these changes required establishing a new level of communications with patients. “We worked really hard to communicate to patients how they could continue to have access to our services,” Griffin reported. “I’m really proud of the speed and flexibility of our team to adjust and continue serving patients.”
DePaul did experience a high level of CrescentCare’s facilities are intentionturnover among support staff. Some were ally located in underserved areas, which a result of having children suddenly out means caring for populations that typiof school, while others left the health- cally struggle to access quality healthcare. care field entirely, concerned about However, like DePaul, they too had to exposing themselves or family members minimize in-person visits; by the end of to the coronavirus. All struggled with March 2020, they had converted to almost the new demands placed on them by the 100% telehealth. Internet access tends to pandemic. be lower in these communities, however, “Taking care of our own team quickly so CrescentCare’s patient base frequently became a top priority, as well as a major encountered difficulties responding to challenge,” said Griffin. this transition. And, as Halperin observed, “How do you provide care to someone without a phone when you aren’t having FROM HIV TO COVID-19 clinic visits?” Many patients lost their jobs Similar challenges have confronted and were simply struggling to survive, CrescentCare, another federally qualified let alone manage their health and face health center. Founded in New Orleans in increased challenges navigating the health 2013, with two locations in the city and insurance maze. one in Houma, CrescentCare’s origins In response, CrescentCare cautiously with the NO/AIDS Task Force gave it a increased their number of home healthdifferent viewpoint on the pandemic — care visits. They expanded their food as well as a different set of challenges in pantry, and established a 24-hour call caring for its patient base. center staffed by nurses and providers. “Our HIV experience gave us some Ultimately, they became what Halperin expertise and perspective on the described as a “COVID-19 clinic.” pandemic,” said Dr. Jason Halperin, “We began offering COVID-19 testing HIV/infectious disease clinician lead for on March 14 , and at this point CrescentCare. “Our DNA is caring for we’ve tested over 15,000 people,” he said. people with HIV, ending that pandemic. “We provided walk-in testing, and people Those same lessons came back, especially didn’t have to be previous patients. We relating to managing fear in patients.” saw a lot of very sick people, and in April
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we were seeing a 45% positive test rate. We tried to provide the best answers we could for these patients, based on the best science available at the time.” CrescentCare also had to focus on keeping its own employees cared for and safe, essentially creating their own employee health structure and doing their own internal contact tracing. Larger facilities, like area hospitals, faced similar issues, but in some ways their size provided certain advantages. The LCMC system, with its six hospitals and more than 12,300-member staff, used this strength effectively during the worst of the pandemic. “At the highest peak, we were able to redeploy teams, mostly nurses, from less busy units and hospitals to the units with the high demand in order to ease the load and have more staff to help care for patients,” said Mary Beth Haskins, director of public relations for LCMC. “We have not had any staff furloughs.” At the same time, Haskins said the biggest challenge for the system was “the emotional and physical toll this past year has taken on hospital teams, and not just physicians and nurses, but the entire staff.” VACCINES: GOOD NEWS CAME WITH ITS OWN CHALLENGES Fortunately, the arrival of vaccines has improved the outlook of facilities and their personnel throughout the greater New Orleans region, but it has also created a new set of logistical problems. “The vaccination process has had its struggles from the start,” said Mike McKendall, director of Pharmacy Services at East Jefferson General Hospital. “We had to create an entirely new process for this.” East Jefferson and the other LCMC hospitals conducted some vaccine planning exercises earlier in 2020, but those did not anticipate that the first vaccines available would require multiple doses, nor the extreme refrigeration requirements, particularly for the Pfizer vaccine. “We had to obtain the 80-below freezers, and as a hub for distribution, we had to be sure we had enough capacity to store whatever supply we received,” McKendall said. “We had to deal with the transportation issue. We had to deal with scheduling, especially when supply levels were uncertain, and the reminders for the second appointments, without overcommitting ourselves. We really had to reinvent the wheel.”
Like other medical facilities, East Jefferson was eager to get its own staff vaccinated, but McKendall noted that even that required planning. “We had to stagger employee vaccinations in anticipation of potential side effects,” he said. “We couldn’t have our entire staff out for a day dealing with the side effects.” Managing vaccination logistics has been a challenge for the community health clinics as well. At DePaul, issues such as hours of availability for people working regular jobs, transit accessibility, and even parking availability at vaccination sites have posed problems. In response, DePaul is vaccinating teachers in their schools and establishing vaccination clinics at community sites. Being flexible in these ways had enabled them to provide 6,500 vaccinations by the beginning of March, with Griffin and his team ramping up to reach 1,000 shots per day within a few weeks. CrescentCare was fortunate enough to begin receiving vaccines early on, starting with giving 60 shots per day and climbing to 180 per day by early March, at which point 88% of its staff had been vaccinated. Supply was still well short of demand, however. Halperin said the clinic received 200 to 300 calls per day from people requesting the vaccine. CrescentCare also struggled with the complicated vaccine process — the storage requirements, the paperwork, the two-dose process — and the situation was compounded by financial issues. The pandemic had already stressed the clinic’s finances, as regular revenue streams were shut down, along with access to the facilities, and according to Halperin, “There is simply no money in this. We receive better reimbursement for testing than for the vaccines.” The arrival of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine is “a game-changer,” in the words of East Jefferson’s McKendall. “We can vaccinate people at a much better rate, and this will help us bring the pandemic to an end much sooner.” The single-dose vaccine is also key to the mass vaccination site opened at the New Orleans convention center in early March. According to Allison Guste, vice president of clinical affairs for LCMC, the site can administer more than 1,000 shots per day, though uncertainties over the number of available doses have lingered as a problem.
Guste was also pleased to see community participation rates going up as the vaccination process continued. “We are working now with community groups to get the word out about vaccine safety and efficacy, and to debunk the social media myths.” In fact, Guste and her team heard “some really great stories from people wanting the vaccine before they were eligible for it,” though nothing as crazy as the two Florida women who tried to pose as seniors in order to get their shots. Another positive result from increasing vaccine availability is that facilities are hiring more staff to manage the vaccination process. Guste reported that LCMC is re-employing Convention Center staff that had been laid off when business there dried up, and is also hiring out-of-work
Filling the Healthcare Workforce Pipeline Both locally and nationally, the COVID-19 pandemic has created staffing issues across the healthcare spectrum, exacerbating a problem that had already existed, and will likely linger well past the pandemic’s end. “Even before the pandemic, the Department of Labor listed healthcare as the fastest growing job sector,” said Sandy Mead, national director of workforce development at
people from the hospitality industry. East Jefferson is bringing on data entry people and rehiring retired nurses, while DePaul is drawing on its partnership with the local academic medical facilities to create a pipeline to fill its staff needs. Working in the healthcare field requires a certain innate optimism, a fervent hope that one can make things better for individuals and entire communities. On that note, Griffin said he sees a possible silver lining of the events over the past year. “I hope this will help us prepare for other biological threats that we know are out there,” he said, “that this will add to our understanding of epidemics and diseases. We can learn from what went wrong and adjust how we treat them in the future. n
MedCerts, an online career training and certification firm based out of Michigan. “The need for allied health professionals has never been higher, due to the number of Americans now using our healthcare system.” In February, MedCerts announced it was teaming up with Equus Workforce Solutions, a national provider of workforce development services, to address these problems. According to a statement from MedCerts, the firms will “work with local hospitals to build apprenticeship programs. This approach is used for doctors when they get their internship and residencies, but in jobs
like medical assistants and phlebotomists, this approach isn’t common.” New Orleans is one of 10 target cities for this partnership, which hopes to “train dozens of apprenticeships” in the next few months. Ochsner Health System also just announced in March that it will partner with Delgado Community College to develop new medical worker training. If these two programs are successful, a permanent solution to medical staffing issues could be another positive outcome from the tragedy of COVID-19.
THERE’S NOTHING BETTER than spending time with friends, family and colleagues — that is unless it’s time spent also doing something to help people you’ve never even met, and maybe never will. Without fundraising events over the past year and with an absence of social gatherings, our community partners have had to find ways to keep their efforts moving forward and their mission alive. Although they’ve been successful in their pivoting attempts, they still need our support in bringing awareness and funding to their causes.
In this issue of Biz New Orleans, we’d like to celebrate those businesses whose company mission goes far beyond keeping their financials in the black, along with some of the many nonprofits with which they partner to get the job done – whether that job is fighting crime or fighting cancer, running a race or running an after-school program. We invite you to join us in lifting up these wonderful organizations and committed businesses that have fought through these challenging times as they are such an invaluable part of moving our community forward.
NONPROFIT (left) Audra Graham and her son, Michael survived a home fire because they were alerted of the fire by working smoke alarms installed by Red Cross volunteers. (right) American Red Cross volunteer responds to a 40-unit apartment fire during COVID-19.
American Red Cross 1-800-RedCross • redcross.org
by these types of events. Over $7 billion in property damage occurs every year, as well. Fire experts agree that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late, and smoke alarms cut the risk of death and injury in a home fire by half. The Red Cross created the Home Fire Campaign in 2014 in an effort to provide opportunities for education around home fire prevention and common hazards and to install free smoke alarms in at-risk communities. Across the Country, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has saved more than 830 lives nationally, 19 of those right here in Louisiana.
In a typical year, home fires kill more people in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. On average, 36 people suffer injuries and seven people die each day as a result of home fires. Unsurprisingly, children and the elderly are the most impacted
MISSION The Red Cross helps meet the immediate needs of those impacted by disasters through the generosity of volunteers and donors. Each year, the Red Cross responds to an average of more than 60,000 disasters, the vast majority of which are home fires. The organization set a goal to reduce firerelated deaths and injuries in the US.
The Red Cross is proud that an average of 90 cents of every dollar spent by the organization is invested in delivering care and comfort to those in need. Donations help families prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from home fires. Donations of time are also useful—90% of the work done in communities is carried out by volunteers. The Red Cross is guided by principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.
NONPROFIT (left) Dr. Stephen Sauer, Executive Director of Arc of Greater New Orleans and ArcGNO Mardi Gras Recycle Center (right) Ryan Rovaris, ArcGNO participant, and Jay England, Community Employment & Integration Director, enjoying the French Quarter Festival.
Arc of Greater New Orleans 925 Labarre Road • Metairie 504-837-5105 • arcgno.org
For 67 years, ArcGNO has worked to advance the independence and well-being of individuals with IDD, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism. Currently ArcGNO supports 600+ individuals throughout Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and St. Tammany parishes with an array of services. These services include: case management for children 0-36 months; in-home support for adults living either on their own or with family members; day
MISSION Arc of Greater New Orleans (ArcGNO) works to secure for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) opportunities to develop, function, and live to their fullest potential.
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services to facilitate skill building, social interaction, and community integration; and job placement/vocational services for those seeking employment. All services have as their goal the maximization of an individual’s autonomy and range of opportunities. Despite disruptions, ArcGNO has continued to operate throughout the pandemic, striving to keep its participants and their families active, safe, and healthy. Further, the organization deftly pivoted its day services program to a virtual platform, alleviating isolation and providing essential connections vital to participants’ well-being.
Currently, there’s a significant gap in government funding and the actual cost of serving participants. Home and community-based services are essential to keep individuals with IDD healthy, independent, and connected to their communities. Current reimbursement rates are only at 2008 levels, while the actual cost to serve individuals with IDD has increased each of the last 13 years. In addition to fundraising via its popular Mardi Gras Recycle Center, ArcGNO welcomes volunteers and monetary donations. Visit arcgno.org/donate.
BUSINESS (left) Bienville Capital Group From Left to Right: Director of Business Development Cristin Hand, Lead Partner Emmett G. Dupas III, Associate Partner Dylan Hoon, and Operations Manager Shannon Navarro (right) The Bienville Capital Group team volunteers at Second Harvest Food Bank to help with the need for food in our area.
WHY THEY GIVE
Bienville Capital Group realizes the importance of giving back. Whether it’s to say thank you for keeping this community healthy, help fight hunger, or promote financial literacy, they are committed to supporting causes that will make a positive impact in this area.
Bienville Capital Group 111 Veterans Memorial Blvd. Ste. 940, Metairie 504-620-4801 • bienvillecapitalgroup.com
Financial success doesn’t happen by chance; it has much more to do with thoughtful decision making and consistent action. The financial professionals at Bienville Capital Group are committed to helping individuals and businesses transform their financial goals into actuality by tailoring financial plans and guiding them along the way.
MISSION Bienville Capital Group is committed to helping individuals and business owners achieve positive retirement plan outcomes.
Bienville Capital Group hosts an annual volunteer day at Second Harvest Food Bank. This past year, the company sponsored a Rubber Duck Derby Team for the Second Harvest Food Bank Virtual Duck Derby race, which raised money that helped fight hunger locally at a time when food insecurity was intensified. Additionally, Bienville Capital group was pleased to donate 400 meals to the healthcare heroes at St. Tammany Parish Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bienville Capital Group is a sponsor of The Gala, a St. Tammany Parish Hospital Foundation fundraiser that benefits patients and families at the St. Tammany Cancer Center. Emmett Dupas and his team are proud sponsors of The Blues Brews and BBQ festival held at Docville Farm which benefits Leadership St. Bernard. Finally, the company supports Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans at the Annual Crescent City Corporate Championship.
NONPROFIT (left) Boys Hope scholars complete homework with help from Residential Counselor, Ronald Haroon (right) After school, Girls Hope scholars study with help from Boys Hope Girls Hope Program Director, Daniella Portillo
the program strives for each scholar to graduate from college, break the cycle of generational poverty, and become thriving men and women within their communities. More than 250 children have called Boys Hope Girls Hope home over the last 41 years. The program’s scholars attend private, college preparatory schools and six collegians are currently in universities across the country.
Boys Hope Girls Hope New Orleans 504-484-7744 • bhghnola.org
Boys Hope Girls Hope New Orleans addresses the two greatest needs that local, at-risk youth face: the need for a stable home environment and a strong academic foundation. It operates two family-like homes in Mid-City; each provides a loving, long-term home for eight children and four live-in staff. Promising young people enter the program as early as eight years old, continuing through high school and college graduation. Ultimately,
MISSION Boys Hope Girls Hope’s mission is to nurture and guide motivated young people in need to become well educated, career-ready men and women for others.
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The support of companies, individuals, schools, and foundations have made this organization’s important work possible and successful. Boys Hope Girls Hope relies on generous donations of money, time, meals, expertise, education for its children, and more from the New Orleans community.
This year Boys Hope Girls Hope will hold a golf tournament, tennis tournament, and a fabulous garden party. Event capacity and revenue have been significantly reduced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Boys Hope Girls Hope is hopeful to hold these scheduled fall events.
(left) Cox Vice President Kevin Monroe pictured with Salvation Army Majors Chris and Lynda Thornhill, New Orleans Area Commanders, at the Cox Technology Center. (right) Cox delivering technology to support an Innovation Lab at Project Lazarus.
WHY THEY GIVE
Cox is dedicated to empowering others to build a better future and celebrate diverse products, people, suppliers, communities and the characteristics that make each one unique.
Cox is the largest privately-owned broadband company in America, serving homes and businesses across 18 states with internet, TV, smart home, security and home phone services.
MISSION Cox Communications is committed to creating meaningful moments of human connection through technology. More than a buzzword, philanthropy is viewed by the company as an opportunity to use time, talent and technology in ways that strengthen cities, businesses and future generations. Cox is committed to closing the digital divide.
Connections became more important than ever when the pandemic shut down schools and businesses and changed the way people live. Since March 2020, Cox has connected more than 50,000 families in need to reduced cost wifi through the Connect2Compete program. But Cox’s commitment to narrow the digital divide doesn’t stop there. The company is also working to make sure people have the knowledge and resources to be successful. To do that, Cox is partnering with New Orleans-area nonprofits to make a difference. On World Aids Day in December, Cox partnered with Project Lazarus to open a state-of-the-art Innovation Lab to assist people living with HIV/AIDS. Cox’s gift will help clients apply for jobs, complete high school equivalency courses and continue their education. The Cox Technology Center at the Salvation Army of Greater New Orleans allows for a safe place for children to complete their homework or online learning. Adults can use the lab to apply for jobs, write and update resumes and connect with family. The Innovation Lab and the Technology Center are examples of connectivity powered by Cox and its community partners.
Dr. Stacy Greene, Infectious Disease Specialist.
Telehealth services also are available. DCHC provides care for all with an emphasis on poor and vulnerable communities.
DCHC associate Anika Perkins, Medical Assistant, administers a COVID vaccine to Leonard A. Johnson.
DePaul Community Health Centers 504-207-3060 DePaulCommunityHealthCenters.org
DePaul Community Health Centers (DCHC), formerly Daughters of Charity Health Centers, works in line with the goals of their founders, the Daughters of Charity, who have provided compassionate health care to the New Orleans community for nearly two centuries. Since 1992, the Daughters have focused their efforts on addressing the health of the whole person, mind, body and spirit. DCHC operates ten health centers in Algiers, Bywater, Carrollton, Gentilly, Gretna, Kenner, Desire, Metairie, New Orleans East and Prytania.
MISSION The mission of DePaul Community Health Centers, inspired by the Daughters of Charity, is to improve the health and well-being of their community and to be a presence of the Love of Jesus in the lives of all they serve and with whom they partner.
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DCHC has several events, fundraisers and special programs that take place throughout the year, including the Keeping Our Promises Gala, Champions FORE Health Golf Tournament, Read for Your Health program, Seton Medication Fund and Give NOLA Day. These events and programs, which are tied to DCHC’s mission and service within the community, help generate funds the organization relies on to continue the work of the Daughters of Charity in offering holistic care for the individual.
Donations to DCHC serve a critical role in preserving their capacity to provide much-needed services to underserved members of the community. Funds raised go directly toward providing health screenings, services and medications for patients.
BUSINESS (left) Hancock Whitney is proud to work with students at the YAYA Arts Center in Central City. (right) Hancock Whitney volunteers work with Rebuilding Together to create affordable housing in the St. Claude neighborhood.
WHY THEY GIVE
Serving local communities is at the core of Hancock Whitney’s dedication to philanthropy and volunteerism. As a hometown financial institution, Hancock Whitney team members live and work in our area so the partnerships they create with local communities and non-profits generates opportunities for people down to the neighborhood level.
Hancock Whitney 504-586-7272 • hancockwhitney.com Almost 200 financial centers across the Gulf South Hancock Whitney, Member FDIC
Hancock Whitney’s commitment to South Louisiana and the City of New Orleans began more than 120 years ago. Today, that pledge to helping people achieve their financial goals and dreams continues as Hancock Whitney grows, changes, and gets better alongside the people and communities of our region.
MISSION Each day, Hancock Whitney reaffirms their mission to help people achieve their financial goals and dreams and to help communities thrive by providing financial solutions delivered with expertise and warm 5-star service. The Honor & Integrity, Strength & Stability, Commitment to Service, Teamwork and Personal Responsibility on which the company was built have carried them through more than a century.
In 2020, Hancock Whitney invested more than $6.5 million in philanthropic donations to empower communities across the Gulf South. Their team members performed thousands of hours of community service with a focus on expanding financial education in local neighborhoods. Across the greater New Orleans region, they support hundreds of non-profits working to make our city a better place. When the pandemic hit, Hancock Whitney quadrupled efforts to ensure people had access to food through Second Harvest Food Bank and another dozen food banks in the region. In addition, they provided funding for health care for low-to-moderate income individuals through organizations like St. Thomas Community Health Center and Ascension DePaul Services, the organization formerly known as Daughters of Charity.
BUSINESS (left) Chris Braud, Senior Commercial Relationship Manager presents a Home Bank Helps employee giving fund grant check to Joey Cirilo, Director of Resource Development, Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana. (right) Senior Commercial Relationship Manager Kelly Cox volunteering with Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West’s Women’s Build event.
technology you expect, Home Bank also delivers the service you deserve across its 40 South Louisiana and Mississippi branches.
WHY THEY GIVE
Supporting the communities in which we live, work and play is important to every Home Bank banker. That’s why the bank created an employee giving program called Home Bank Helps. Serving on boards, committees, and as volunteers for nonprofits across the bank’s footprint, the Home Bank team is invested in the growth of the region’s families and businesses. The bank promotes a sense of family, of community and of belonging and encourages its employees to find causes that inspire them to serve and lead.
Home Bank 866-401-9440 home24bank.com
The spirit of community that fueled Home Bank in its early days is still going strong 113 years later. Home Bank is a growing company that hasn’t outgrown the personal touch expected of a community bank. Offering the modern
MISSION Home Bank’s focus is: “Good for business. Good for life.”
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The Home Bank team gives of its time resources through a robust corporate sponsorship and donation program as well as through volunteerism. In addition, the bank maintains an employee-funded and directed grant program, Home Bank Helps, which allocates grant dollars to local nonprofits and schools. The grant fund was created by employees to allow for active participation in workplace giving, and in 2020, the New Orleans and Northshore markets granted funds to 12 organizations. To make fundraising fun, several times a year, Home Bank offers “jean days” to employees who donate toward a special cause such as heart health and cancer research.
NONPROFIT (left to right) Rachael Jonas, Louis Ogle, Patricia LeBlanc, Cynthia Lee Sheng, Christine Briede, Talair Adams, Clay Richardson
Jefferson Community Foundation 504-264-1237 • jeffersoncommunity.org
Jefferson Community Foundation (JCF) is the community foundation for Jefferson Parish, connecting philanthropy to critical community needs to enhance the quality of life for all in the parish. JCF focuses on initiatives for education, health and wellness, neighborhood support and revitalization, race equity, senior citizens, and transit. JCF leaders are actively engaged in the communities
MISSION The Jefferson Community Foundation exists to advance philanthropy, leadership, civic action and innovation in Jefferson Parish. The Foundation promotes an equitable and healthy community for all in Jefferson Parish.
they serve and are making smart, strategic investments to drive impact. Examples of JCF’s work have included the free learn-to-swim program, H2Geaux Swim, which has provided 1,331 swim lessons with plans to serve 1,000 more children in 2021. JCF has also been instrumental in the opening of Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy, which now serves over 2,000 students. JCF is focused on a number of new ideas and initiatives, including Hope Haven, a health and wellness complex that will serve the entire Westbank, Design Metairie, a strategic development plan used to guide Metairie’s growth and development, and the Race Equity Reconciliation Committee, which hosts open, factbased discussions about race and equity and makes recommendations for action in Jefferson Parish.
A supporting organization of the Greater N.O. Foundation, JCF participates in GiveNOLA Day every year as well as GivingTuesday, an online giving event held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and the community can safely gather, JCF plans to hold a gala event.
NONPROFIT (left) Shantell Williams and her daughter were able to spend time over the holidays in their Habitat home. (right) New Orleans Habitat homebuyer, Glenda Larsen, is able to enjoy an afternoon on the front porch her of Habitat home during the pandemic.
of hope for musicians and culture bearers after Hurricane Katrina. The pandemic has shown that having a stable home is more important than ever. Many of NOAHH’s homebuyers are essential workers on the frontlines while others are musicians and servers whose gigs vanished overnight.
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity 2900 Elysian Fields Ave. • New Orleans 504-861-2077 • habitat-nola.org
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) is a 501(c)3 organization that makes homeownership possible for families who are unable to qualify for traditional home loans but have a stable job, good or no credit, and the willingness to contribute 350 hours of sweat equity volunteer hours. Since its founding, NOAHH has built over 630 homes for the working families of New Orleans, including those in the Musician’s Village, which served as a beacon
MISSION NOAHH’s mission is to build communities where families can thrive in homes they can afford.
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NOAHH is responsible for raising all the funds it needs to improve New Orleans communities and residents. While affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International, NOAHH’s operating budget is raised— and spent—locally. Many people think Habitat houses are “free” and built with volunteer labor alone. While volunteers are essential, each Habitat home costs about $145,000 to construct and accounts for land, materials, specialized professionals, insurance, and other necessary expenses. Volunteers are a major source of on-going funding and support labor for NOAHH. Its annual Women Build brings together nearly 500 volunteers annually who have raised more than $360,000 since 2017. In 2020, COVID-19 suspended Women Build and other fundraising and homebuilding events. Until NOAHH can again host volunteers, support is welcome through tax-deductible donations at habitat-nola.org.
NONPROFIT (from left to right) Lynhaven Retreat for women, Giving Hope Retreat for men
campuses, the Giving Hope Retreat for men and the Lynhaven Retreat for women, is dedicated to the life changing transformation of men and women on their journey to recovery.
New Orleans Mission Main campus 1130 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. • New Orleans Lynhaven (for women) 21669 Old Covington Hwy • Hammond Giving Hope Retreat (for men) 31294 Hwy. 190 • Lacombe 504-523-2116 • neworleansmission.org
Founded in 1989, the New Orleans Mission is the largest service provider to the homeless population of the Greater New Orleans Metro area and to hungry and hurting people in our community. Each year, the Mission serves over 3,200 unique homeless individuals, provides 50,000 hot meals monthly and distributes nearly one million pounds of food to residents struggling with food insecurity. The organization, which also encompasses two Northshore
The Mission hosts annual events dedicated to raising both funds and awareness. Upcoming events include: the Lynhaven Luncheon on March 26, Big Easy Big Heart 5K Race on July 17, a Fashion Show in September, and the 8th Annual Mission Gala on November 19.
Because the New Orleans Mission receives no federal funds, they rely on monthly donations from individuals, businesses, churches, and foundations to continue providing their services. The Mission accepts donations of service, hygiene items, vehicles, in-kind items, and money. To learn more about donation opportunities with the New Orleans Mission, visit neworleansmission.org/donate or text MISSION to 77948.
MISSION The New Orleans Mission’s core value is changing lives; their focus is rescuing hurting people from some of life’s greatest challenges; walking them through recovery; and assisting their re-engagement as skilled, healthy individuals ready to live a purpose-driven life.
NONPROFIT (from left to right) Executive Committee Board Members: Krista Pouncy-Dyson, Chairwoman; Josline G. Frank, Secretary; Perry Sholes, Vice Chairman; Dr. Margaret Montgomery-Richard, Immediate Past Chair; Shawntele Green, Membership Chair; Vanessa James, Treasurer; Laverne Toombs, Executive Director
New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce 6600 Plaza Drive, Suite 305 • New Orleans 504-948-0991 • norbchamber.org
The New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce (NORBCC) is a 501c6 organization committed to providing dynamic leadership and advocacy to strengthen and promote prosperity within the black community. NORBCC serves as a valuable resource and voice for economic viability for black businesses and the community at large. NORBCC focuses on promoting inclusivity and awareness of opportunities for local small and emerging black businesses within a 10-parish region that includes Orleans,
MISSION NORBCC’s mission is to support, promote, and educate its members for sustainable growth and expansion while also empowering and sustaining the black business community through entrepreneurship and economic activity in Greater New Orleans and the global economy.
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Advocating for black-owned businesses across the New Orleans Metro area to have more access to contracting opportunities, capital, and technical resources.
Jefferson, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, St. Bernard, Washington, St. John, St. James, St. Charles, and Plaquemines. As an advocate and liaison for black businesses, NORBCC provides information to members regarding current economic development initiatives and procurement opportunities in various industries. NORBCC is 300 members strong and comprised of organizations that provide professional services as well as materials and goods. NORBCC’s #DeliberateSpending365 campaign encourages the support of its members by members in procurement and sourcing needs.
NORBCC hosts a number of webinars and networking events year-round at no cost to members thanks to support from its corporate sponsors. These events include its annual luncheon, policy luncheon, annual golf tournament, Straight Talk Series, Chat & Chew, Ladies with Drive, Chamber Plus, and Women’s Doing Business virtual conferences. NORBCC encourages its members to serve on committees and become Ambassadors of the chamber.
NONPROFIT (left) Vanessa Dueñas, Executive Director of Renaudin Foundation, makes a donation of Personal Protective Equipment to Rich Alves with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. (right) Jon Renaudin, Founder of Renaudin Foundation
Renaudin Foundation renaudinfoundation.org facebook.com/renaudinfoundation
Jon Renaudin understands that life can be challenging. For many, the pandemic has presented one challenge after another. Inspired to help others after overcoming difficult circumstances himself, Jon founded the Renaudin Foundation as a way to provide people with
the assistance they need to successfully navigate problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the Renaudin Foundation’s key initiatives is helping people get the mental health care they need. In partnership with nola.com, the Foundation presented a Mental Health Town Hall in 2020 that invited viewers to submit questions that were answered by experts in a Facebook live event. Currently, Renaudin Foundation is presenting a 12-part news feature on mental health amid the pandemic on nola.com. This special reporting project explores the unique mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic. Other recent initiatives include the donation of Personal Protective Equipment to New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity homeowners and families, many of whom are front-line workers. The Foundation also provided support to the Jefferson Parish SPCA and Hurricane Laura evacuees housed in New Orleans hotels.
Renaudin Foundation both makes and accepts financial donations, forming on-going partnerships that make a difference in the health of the community. Contact Renaudin Foundation to discuss partnership opportunities.
MISSION Renaudin Foundation provides people with the help they need to survive the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also a conduit for businesses or individuals looking to give in the form of financial donations, goods or services.
BUSINESS (left) RPM Team Members having fun competing for the Fastest Pizza Maker challenge. (right) Glenn Mueller, CEO handing out pizzas at a drive-thru event in New Orleans with Kingsley House.
is the leading pizza company in Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana, Michigan, and Mobile, Alabama.
WHY THEY GIVE
RPM Pizza cares about its communities and neighbors, including the company’s own Team Members. It’s committed to making communities safer and helping Team Members develop within their career. Believing in brighter futures, RPM Pizza has assisted over 145 of its own Team Members in franchising their own businesses.
RPM Pizza (Domino’s Pizza) @Dominos_RPMTeam rpmpizza.com • jobs.dominos.com
Where you buy pizza makes a difference—with each order from Domino’s, local customers are helping give back to their neighborhoods. RPM Pizza has long been a leading franchise in the Domino’s Pizza brand. It currently operates over 170+ stores, has a $50 million payroll, and employs over 4,600 Team Members serving 25 million pizzas annually. Celebrating 40 years in business, RPM Pizza has always been the largest franchise in North America and
MISSION Providing both convenience and local support, RPM Pizza is “Creating Smiles By Making Lives Easier.”
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Locally, RPM Pizza has provided support—and pizza—to various organizations, including the NOPD, local schools, United Way, Heroes of New Orleans, Kingsley House, Habitat for Humanity, Urban League, local hospitals during the pandemic, and many more. In 2020, the company donated over 100,000 pizzas to hundreds of organizations. With the motto “First to Open, Last to Close,” it is the goal of RPM Pizza to be the first Quick Service Restaurant to open after a disaster to ensure food access for local communities. To date, the company has persisted through 35 hurricanes, ice storms, floods, a polar vortex, and a global pandemic.
BUSINESS (left) RYCARS loves volunteering for our community. Giving back is more than the company culture, it’s embedded in who we are. (right) RYCARS team members busy at work sorting and packing dry goods for the Southeast Louisiana region.
WHY THEY GIVE
The RYCARS team believes in giving back to the communities in which they operate and are proud to have community service initiatives in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Austin. RYCARS has served New Orleans since 2002 and Atlanta since 2006 before their recent expansion to Austin, Texas. All of these communities have contributed to RYCARS Construction’s growth and success—RYCARS leadership believes in reciprocating that support through philanthropy embedded in its company culture.
RYCARS Construction, LLC 503 Coleman Place, Kenner 504-305-5309 • rycars.com
RYCARS Construction, LLC is a premier commercial roofing contractor offering innovative roofing solutions with a deep-rooted focus on safety. Its specialized, experienced professionals have extensive training with all roofing systems with the capability to provide professional, reliable commercial roofing and construction services.
MISSION RYCARS Construction’s mission is to provide commercial entities with excellent, professional construction services specifically related to building envelope integrity.
RYCARS supports a number of charitable organizations—including but not limited to Son of a Saint, BRAVO, Second Harvest Food Bank, Ozanam Inn, Central Texas Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, and Atlanta Community Food—through both volunteer work and monetary donations. The company sponsors quarterly community volunteer days with non-profit organizations in each market and invites all employees, family members, and friends to participate. RYCARS also believes in strengthening the community by providing job opportunities to ex-offenders, which helps decrease Greater New Orleans’ prison recidivism rate while providing individuals with a path to success.
NONPROFIT Look good, feel good and do good. Your first impression is your first advantage.
re-invent themselves. A new suit, pair of shoes, and tie changes attitude and changes behavior. Last year, SHARP Men NOLA provided suits for all young men at the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center so that when they are released, they can leave with new attitudes.
SHARP Men New Orleans 504-603-6787 sharpmen.org
Interviews are vital to hiring, whether virtual or in-person, and first impressions matter to managers. Over 50 percent of African American men in New Orleans are unemployed—not having the right attire shouldn’t be a barrier. SHARP Men NOLA is the only organization in the South providing this service, in comparison to 20 Dress for Success affiliates for women. Men leaving prison are desperately looking for an opportunity to successfully
MISSION SHARP Men NOLA’s mission is to provide professional attire and resources to men attempting to overcome barriers to employment. Its three-tiered Look SHARP, Think SHARP, Stay SHARP approach provides image consultation, interview advice, and tools for growth.
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Homeless to Hired outreach provides clothing, haircuts and supplies to men in transition from unstable housing to gainful employment while Clothing Closet Drives supports men through professional attire for interviews. The organization’s annual Bowties & Bourbon Brunch promotes mental health and wellness, and its “Sharpest in New Orleans Award” highlights local men with an eye for fashion and philanthropy.
Donations are needed to fuel growth and sustainability and deliver the systemic change that increases diversity and cultural representation in the marketplace. Giving helps Black-led and Black-benefitting organizations thrive. Volunteer-led, SHARP Men NOLA appreciates the support of its community and donors like AT&T’s Believe New Orleans team.
NONPROFIT (left) United Way makes it easier to make a meaningful difference, whether through time, money, or by raising one’s voice. (right) United Way connects people with inspirational, everyday volunteer opportunities and creating opportunities for them to use their voices as a force for positive change.
were already struggling to make ends meet—now, these families and many more are in crisis. United Way transitioned to COVID-19 response early in 2020, generating over $16M in direct impact. These innovative pandemic initiatives— executed with help from numerous community partnerships—have helped a diverse range of community members, from hospitality and grocery workers to unemployed individuals, homebound older adults, children and parents, and communities of color.
United Way of Southeast Louisiana 2515 Canal Street • New Orleans 504-822-5540 • unitedwaysela.org
For 95 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and working on the front lines of community problems, both everyday issues and crises. The organization fights to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. Before COVID-19, over half of households in Southeast Louisiana
United Way accepts monetary donations and encourages volunteerism and advocacy. For more information on how to give and volunteer, visit // unitedwaysela.org/give or the United Way HandsOn Entergy Volunteer Center at // unitedwaysela.org/volunteer.
Every June, communities around the world come together to volunteer and improve conditions where they live with United Way’s Annual Day of Action. Later in the summer, the East and West St. Tammany Red Beans & Rice Cook-Offs benefit suicide prevention, mental health services, and other United Way programs serving the parish. This fall, the Tocqueville Society Gala will celebrate the exemplary leadership in community, volunteerism, and philanthropy of those creating a better community.
MISSION United Way of Southeast Louisiana aims to eradicate poverty in Southeast Louisiana.
NONPROFIT University of Holy Cross Senior Nursing Students
University of Holy Cross 4123 Woodland Drive • New Orleans 504-394-7744 • uhcno.edu
The University of Holy Cross (UHC), a Catholic institution of higher learning rooted in the traditions of the Marianites of Holy Cross, is an inclusive, studentcentered learning community focused on academic excellence and innovative teaching. The school provides an atmosphere of learning and growth that not only expands the mind but also nourishes the heart. Located on the West Bank, minutes from downtown New
MISSION The University is committed to educating the minds and hearts of its students through freedom of inquiry, the pursuit of truth, and compassionate care for all.
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Orleans, UHC offers an affordable, liberal arts education within a small, private university setting. It offers more than 65 majors and programs to more than 1,000 students. The school is a place where people’s lives are transformed—it’s not about where you start at the University of Holy Cross but about where you finish. Many UHC graduates have remained in New Orleans, working as teachers, counselors, mental health professionals, nurses, health care professionals, business leaders, and key players in liberal arts for years. This comes after earning undergraduate or graduate-level degrees in UHC programs such as nursing, education, counseling, health sciences, biology, business administration, social sciences, theology, and more.
Giving back makes an impact—it builds the local community and its people up. Giving back also enriches lives and creates a better world for the next generation. Donations can be made at uhcno.edu. UHC also participates with Give NOLA Day and #iGiveCatholic.
NONPROFIT (left) Mentoring Children of Promise pairs a caring, adult mentor with children with an incarcerated parent. (right) Supported Living Services help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live independent and rewarding lives.
and disabled, and supporting positive development for troubled and at-risk children and youth.
Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana 4152 Canal Street • New Orleans 504-482-2130 • voasela.org
Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana has emerged over the last 125 years as a premier provider of effective and high-quality social services for children, families, veterans, seniors, and persons living with disabilities. The organization brings hope and healing through more than 20 different programs across 16 parishes with a focus on promoting self-sufficiency for the homeless and others overcoming crises, caring for and fostering independence in the elderly
MISSION Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana’s mission is to serve and uplift Southeast Louisiana’s most vulnerable populations and offer opportunities for others to experience the joy of serving.
The GolfStar Classic is an annual golf tournament held in March at TPC of Louisiana. It is the primary funding source of VOA’s Adoption and Maternity program, which has created forever families and helped women in crisis pregnancies for over 75 years. The annual Reach for The Stars Breakfast takes place virtually on May 6. Local supporters invite their family, friends, and colleagues to attend the breakfast, learn about programs, and be inspired. Christmas Wish is held each December and provides gifts for about 1,000 persons and families “adopted” by donors.
Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana cannot provide the services for the most vulnerable without the support of the community. The difference between money received from federal, state and local agencies and the true cost of serving is Volunteers of America’s funding gap. Every year, the organization depends on philanthropy to cover that gap (voasela.org/donate).
BUSINESS Gallo Mechanical and their partners the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the New Orleans Business Alliance
Gallo Mechanical 504-944-6736 • gallomechanical.com
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Gallo Mechanical is a family of companies headquartered in New Orleans with offices throughout South Louisiana, the Gulf Coast, and North Carolina. Proud to be able to be the mechanical construction firm of choice, Gallo Mechanical operates knowing that engaged
and supported employees are committed to exceptional service and provide unparalleled performance.
WHY THEY GIVE
Gallo Mechanical recognizes its responsibility to give back to the communities in which its team works and lives. The company’s partnerships with community-based organizations demonstrate its commitment to provide support for employees, their families and the broader community in ways that provide resources and support that matter.
(Top) Augie Gallo, Norman Barnum IV, JP Hymel (Bottom) Powell DiGhngi, Augie Gallo, Lauren King, JP Hymel
With the arrival of COVID-19, in a time riddled with nationwide stress and uncertainty, Gallo Mechanical took the opportunity to expand its partnerships and community-based giving in six specific ways. Gallo Mechanical created a green tree funding program to provide loans for small businesses with the New Orleans Business Alliance. It increased employee support programs through GNOF with its field-based navigator, Powell DiGang. A wellness and stress management program was developed with “Tuesday Toolbox” sessions facilitated by Sarah Hoffpauer, a licensed social worker and Tulane Professor. To support its field and families, Gallo Mechanical hosted drive-through, pick-up employee dinners. Finally, to further education among employees, the company created a financial literacy series with Hancock Whitney and upped its participation with the organization EdNavigator.
MISSION Gallo Mechanical is founded on a meaningful culture of family, service and performance. Gallo Mechanical lives these values through its commitment to its clients, employees and communities.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
From The Lens SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA BUSINESS IN FULL COLOR
WORKSPACES The Louisiana Children’s Museum’s
office space is designed to inspire both the staff and the people they serve
WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? Nobody enjoys stopping
for gas, so this new startup is bringing it to you, wherever you are
ON THE JOB GiGi’s Playhouse New Orleans Down
Syndrome Achievement Center offers free educational and therapeutic-based programs
FROM THE LENS GRE AT WORKSPACES
Playful in the Park The Louisiana Children’s Museum’s office space is designed to inspire the staff and the people they serve BY MELANIE WARNER SPENCER PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
WHEN THE LOUISIANA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
opened its new state-of-the-art, LEED Goldrated building in City Park in 2019, there was no way of knowing that six months later the COVID-19 pandemic would force the staff to shut its doors. Nonetheless, the museum staff has been behind the scenes ever since in its daylight-infused, modern, open-plan office space — designed by Mithun in Seattle and furnished by New Orleans-based AOS Interior Environments — preparing in great anticipation to fling the doors once again open and working to rebuild the staff and programming. “We are counting down to reopening the museum Memorial Day weekend,” said Louisiana Children’s Museum CEO Julia Bland, who shares that the museum has at least been utilized by one group throughout the pandemic. “We made an agreement with a nearby charter school that their pre-K and [kindergarten] students could use the 64
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The Louisiana Children’s Museum will reopen to the public on Memorial Day weekend in May, after being shut down most of 2020 due to COVID-19. The museum and office spaces were designed by Mithun in Seattle and furnished by New Orleans-based AOS Interior Environments.
The space has an angled roof that is exposed in the interior, which CEO Julia Bland said challenged the design team to create furniture that not only met the staff ’s needs for dayto-day work and functions, but also made visual sense within the context of the overall design of the museum.
AT A GLANCE LOCATION
15 Henry Thomas Drive in City Park DATE BUILT
2019 PERSON IN CHARGE
Julia W. Bland, CEO ARCHITECT
Mithun (Seattle), Rich Franko INTERIOR DESIGNER
Mithun (Annie Rummelhoff) and AOS (Stephanie Ricord) FURNISHINGS AND ART
Furnishings by AOS (including pieces by Andreu World, Emeco, Davis, Hightower, Flor, Heartwork, Bernhardt Design, Knoll). Artwork in the offices includes select pieces from the 1984 World’s Fair Wonder Wall brought from the Julia Street museum; Spacestor seating cabinetry combination as a room divide custom made and inspired by the museum’s “kindows”; Terrance Osborne giclee in open office space; staff breakroom and volunteer room have Basquiatinspired art done by local children in the museum’s art studio; employee open workspace has a coffee table made from Mitchell Gaudet’s cauldron that the glass beads were made in (glass top shows some beads inside; Alex Beard painting “Tree of Life”; the logo room (or phone room) is filled with art and a birthday chair from the original museum.
The design team was charged with considering the needs of not only the museum staff, but also the wide variety of people the museum works with and serves, in creating a space that marries form, function and, at the heart of it all, sustainability amid the beauty of City Park’s surrounding landscape.
museum as their school site this year, so we are hosting 120 students all day each day. The kids are from Langston Hughes Academy. Soon we will be reopening and will welcome families and the general public again.” The design team was charged with considering the needs of not only the museum staff, but also the wide variety of people the museum works with and serves, in creating a space that marries form, function and, at the heart of it all, sustainability amid the beauty of City Park’s surrounding landscape. “Our staff works with various stakeholders of a young child’s ecosystem — the children themselves, parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, community partners, donors, members and more,” said Bland. “It is basically a big jigsaw 66
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
We are counting down to reopening the museum Memorial Day weekend. Julia Bland, CEO of the Louisiana Children’s Museum
puzzle of joy and learning and beauty – we are so lucky!” The space has an angled roof that is exposed in the interior, which Bland said challenged the design team to create furniture that not only met the staff ’s needs for day-to-day work and functions, but also made visual sense within the context of the overall design of the museum. She cited myriad aspects of the sustainable design, as the standout features of the space. “There are many standards associated with that admirable [LEED Gold] classification,” Bland said. “Incredible daylighting with large windows look out to the park’s glorious views, while large overhangs allow us to enjoy the park and not feel any exterior heat. The lighting is triggered by occupancy, which provides tremendous savings on our utility bill. An open office
space and a variety of meeting rooms and workspaces offer flexibility, and the carpet was made of recycled fishnets. Plus, I believe I have the most fabulous office in the city!” Views of the park — including pods of pelicans putting on regular “air shows” — and the sounds of children’s voices contribute to the positive working atmosphere at the museum, Bland said. “I am so anxious to get back in the rhythm of a full operation again and play an important role in helping families recover from the many losses and traumas of the past year,” she said. “We hope to see big doses of childhood joy expressed by the children who come here, and [hear] a big sigh of relief from the parents so needing the respite. We can’t wait!” n
“Tree of Life,” a painting by Alex Beard, is among many pieces by local and national artists held in the museum’s collection that now decorate the colorful office space.
FROM THE LENS WHY DIDN’ T I THINK OF THAT ?
Gas On Demand
California, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and more, with the biggest reason for many who have signed up being convenience and ease. Prior to launch, the biggest challenge for Nabut and his team was putting together the nuts and bolts, and proper infrastructure, a Nobody enjoys stopping process that was three years in the making. for gas, so this new “Starting from scratch was a long process to get the custom DOT-approved fueling startup is bringing it to skids, to the final approval of the application you, wherever you are. from Apple and Google Play Stores,” he said. Fuel Up NOLA, which has its headquarBY ASHLEY MCLELLAN ters in Luling, services a 50-mile radius PHOTOS BY SARA ESSEX BRADLEY around the city of New Orleans, including Belle Terre Road in LaPlace, New Orleans East to the Twin Spans, Chalmette, Metairie, Uptown, Downtown, Belle Chasse, West PUMPING GAS IS ONE CHORE NO AUTOMOBILE Bank, River Parishes and Des Allemands. driver can avoid. For many, add in an extra The company has an expanding fleet of fuel layer of risk at the pump right now, or the trucks and a growing roster of employees physical inability to get the job done, and it and is hoping to expand services to the can be much more than just a taxing errand. Northshore by the end of the summer. That’s where Fuel Up NOLA, launched in “We currently have five trucks,” said Nabut. January of this year, aims to step in, making “Three are in full-time operation. One truck gassing up and maintaining your or your is used as a refill, and other trucks are in the loved one’s vehicle easy, convenient and safe. field. We are hoping our diesel fuel truck will The brainchild of owner Yoyo Nabut, be completed by the end of March or early who also owns multiple Birdies Fuel April 2021. There are currently four drivers stations across the Gulf South, the inspira- and a total of seven employees on our team. tion for Fuel Up NOLA came from a place We are looking to expand to have 10 trucks close to home. on the road by 2022.” “I’ve been in the fuel business for years A membership to Fuel Up NOLA is $19.99 and knowing how the gas stations work per month, plus the cost of the fuel for a had me concerned for my own mom and vehicle, or a family of up to four vehicles, my sister,” he said. “I’d hate to have to stay on and includes a free tire pressure check and the phone with my mom while she pumped refill with each visit. You can also order a gas to make sure she was safe. My sister has one-time delivery for a fee of $4.99, plus the two little girls, and she didn’t feel safe stop- cost of gas. Team members can be scheduled ping to get gas. So, it was really out of family to go to a home, gym, parking garage or concerns that gave me the idea.” office weekly, and members receive priority Additionally, Nabut drew inspiration service “during peak periods, gas shortages from other straight-to-the-customer or adverse weather conditions,” according delivery apps that have become a part of to the website. The company is currently everyday life for people. offering the first month of a new member“There was a need for evolution in a ship free, with customers just paying for the business that has remained fairly stagnant price of the fuel. The Fuel Up NOLA app for decades. Amazon, Waitr, UberEats have notifies members when a driver is en route, ushered in a new wave — everything can be for safe, contactless interaction. delivered to your doorstep, why not fuel?” Nabut hears many reasons why customers Nabut said. “I thought that if this was a good have chosen to become members, citing safety idea for me and my family, maybe other concerns as well as the convenience factor. people would think it was a good idea, too.” “This service is perfect for everyone. Nabut is on the cutting edge, with gas Our customer base starts from the worried delivery companies becoming a new trend parent with the 17-year-old son or daughter, that is slowly spreading across the U.S. the elderly person that cannot stand for Companies such as Yoshi, Booster Fuels, extended periods of time, the working Filld and Urgent.ly have started to trans- mom and dads, or the busy businessman form how drivers fuel up in states such as or -woman,” Nabut said. “We all have loved
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
Fuel Up NOLA owner Yoyo Nabut launched the company this past January with the goal of providing a safe, convenient and efficient way to gas up a vehicle. Members use the app to let technicians know they are parked and ready for fuel at their home, office, gym, or any other location.
DIRTY JOB According to Car and Driver, a 2011 Kimberly-Clark study reported that “71% of gas pump handles were considered ‘highly contaminated with the kinds of germs most associated with a high risk of illness.’ Compare that to only 41% of ATM buttons and 43% of escalator rails.” Additionally, a 2016 report from Busbud reported that “On average, gas pumps have more than 11,000 times more bacteria than the common household toilet seat. And pump station buttons fare even worse: roughly 15,000 times more bacteria.”
PARK, PIN, AND POP
HOW TO FUEL UP NOLA 1. Park your vehicle. Once you arrive at your destination, such as your home, work, or gym, just park your vehicle as usual. 2. Pin your location. Use the Fuel Up NOLA app to pin the location of your parked vehicle. Our technology allows us to pinpoint the exact location. 3. Pop open your fuel door. If your vehicle comes equipped with a locking fuel door, you will need to pop open your fuel door. The fuel technicians will close your fuel door after fueling is complete. ACCORDING TO FUELUPNOLA.COM
ones in our lives that we are concerned about. They work late hours and safety is always a concern. I didn’t want them stopping for gas at night, and now with this pandemic, I definitely didn’t want them stopping for gas and risk coming in contact with someone or something that has been exposed to the virus. Admittedly, we all live very busy lives rushing from one event to another, and we are all on edge. The last thing we want to do is stop and pump gas. Finally, seeing the rash of crimes, theft, and now murder happening around New Orleans area gas stations, it has become the best way to protect yourself and your family from any harm.” So far, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Nabut, who feels that once members give it a try, they will overcome the habit of going to the pump. “Like with anything, we have to grow as an industry. This is the next way of doing things,” he said. “I’ve had calls from customers that say they are customer for life. You feel good about it.”n
PUBLISHER’S NOTICE: All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Ace and the Louisiana Open Housing Act, which make it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination. We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the law. For more information, call the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-273-5718.
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
FROM THE LENS ON THE JOB
Play to Learn Opened last October, GiGi’s Playhouse New Orleans Down Syndrome Achievement Center offers free educational and therapeutic-based programs to individuals with Down syndrome and their families. PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
BIZ NEW ORLEANS
PART OF A NATIONAL NETWORK CREATED TO CHANGE THE WAY THE
world views Down syndrome and send a message of global acceptance for all, GiGi’s Playhouse New Orleans is the 50th location of the GiGi’s Playhouse network. Operating out of Metairie, the nonprofit provides a wide array of free programs from diagnosis through adulthood designed to support the way people with DS learn. Seen here, volunteer Rachel Sloan leads an LMNOP (Language Music ‘N’ Our Peeps) lesson for toddlers with Down syndrome and their siblings. The program guides parents and young children through basic sign language and other forms of communication using music and language-based activities. GiGisPlayhouse.org/neworleans. n