We came to know of the incredible and selfless Denise Thornton after Hurricane Katrina. We live in Lakewood South where all of the houses flooded , including Ms. Thornton's. While the entire neighborhood was in shock and unsure how to proceed, it was Denise that led the charge. It was amazing to watch her work to help all of her neighbors come back when she was in the same dire straits as we were. While most of us were crying, frozen and unable to proceed, Denise immediately began to help us to organize and get thru the maze involved in attempting to reestablish our homes and neighborhood that Hurricane Katrina had wiped out.
While the people of the neighborhood were scattered and forced into other living situations, Denise slept in her flooded and ruined home. While others were only content to sleep to shut out the reality of Katrina, Denise stayed awake and gathered the information on what we needed to do and how we needed to do it. She opened her home to ALL, to share what she had learned thru her sleepless nights and diligent research . Denise not only gathered info, but reached out to those more fortunate and unaffected, asking for items that all could use to begin the process of gutting houses and cleaning up their properties.
Denise was tenacious in communicating with people to initiate the process of returning home . Her work efforts in this recovery process were amazing and inspiring, and caused a great deal of positive momentum in accelerating the return of families to their homes.
To do this for years as a volunteer, pouring her heart and soul into rebuilding our community, was one of the most selfless and charitable efforts we've ever seen.
She has continued on with these efforts and established the beacon of hope in so many other neighborhoods that have also known the wrath of catastrophe.
We are very proud of and thankful to our neighbor, Denise Thornton and the organization that she found, The Beacon of Hope.
Founded after Hurricane Katrina, the Beacon of Hope was touted as a neighborhood gathering place. The home of the founder, which is in a very affluent neighborhood, was stocked with gardening tools and office equipment which were supposedly there for anyone in this enclave to borrow. Having gardening tools of our own and cell phones, we never had the occasion to use any of these things.
The first experience I had with them was the press conference at the original office of the Beacon on Bellaire Drive; it was to be a fair of sorts, providing contracters from all over, experts in all phases of rebuilding, and agencies to give advice on getting utilities back up. In attending the news conference, all I found were two tables---one half-hearted tile contractor, and something to do with the Sewerage and Water Board. The main event was the founder's press conference in which she tearfully recounted the drama of her rebuilding efforts. No help to me at all.....but great publicity for someone who has come up with a non-profit from which to draw a salary.
There was a Red Cross organization set up in the driveway of this home and free meals were served at lunch every day for quite some time after the storm; this seemed inappropriate to me since this was one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New Orleans.
The main gist of the organization at its founding was to get people to get their lawns replanted and kept up so the property values of those that had already rebuilt would not suffer so greatly. This was impractical for those rebuilding since construction of a home included much wear and tear on the lawn. It was more efficient to rebuild the home then replant the lawn and landscaping, but many neighbors capitulated to avoid the criticism of the Beacon's leader. This person used public humiliation to get neighbors to do something with their lawns. She sent emails to large groups and would single out one family in the email about their lawn not being kept up, when many of these victims of such bullying had extenuating circumstances such as illness or divorce or financial hardship after losing their homes in the flood.
In addition to policing neighbors about their lawns, the Beacon of Hope was supposed to be a resource for information. Our home was flooded by the levee break after Hurricane Katrina and we went to Beacon of Hope twice for information regarding rebuilding snags we had run into. One of those times, the person answering the phone said they didn't know how to handle that problem and she asked if we would research the issue and find out so she would have that information in the future. The other time we called they just flat out could not help us.
The neighborhood association meetings in the affluent neighborhood of the Beacon of Hope founder have now become a stage for solicitations for donations to the Beacon of Hope, even though the neighborhood association itself is in need of funds.
My conclusion regarding the Beacon of Hope over the 5 years of familiarity with this organization: Charity is of minimal value. Money could be spent more wisely elsewhere.
Review from Guidestar