One of the main goals of CrossRoads is to partner with other local organizations in each of our fields, supporting them in their work in their communities. This way, we benefit our partners through volunteer work and access to tools, the community gets to have more than the partner could have done on their own, and our volunteers know that their service in the field will have an impact for years to come. Our field leaders look for local partners with the same mindset of service, worship, and discipleship and are loved and respected in their communities.
In New Orleans, these relationships have evolved into a network of partnerships and friendships. Various organizations assist each other where possible, and when CrossRoads can’t fill a need, we can point to another organization that would likely help. At the beginning of 2020, our staff had one such meeting with Launch NOLA, a section of Thrive NOLA that we have worked with for several years. Launch works to assist and train local entrepreneurs through a business academy, coaching, and providing affordable workspaces. Because of our relationships with Thrive and our work on Launch’s building, they asked us to assist a recent graduate from their business academy – Ubuntu Construction.
“We are a for-profit business with a non-profit vibe,” Nicole Nixon explains to our volunteer groups. “Ubuntu is a South African word that means ‘humanity’ or ‘I am because we are,’ and that is how we want to be as a company.” Nicole and her husband Greg moved back to New Orleans after successful careers in athletics, Greg as a 3X World Champion and 2X U.S. Champion on the 400m in Track & Field, and Nicole as a former Division 1-A strength coach and leader seasoned in various corporate settings. Now they are focused on investing in New Orleans by providing a creative solution to an ongoing problem: flooding.
New Orleans is, on average, 1 to 2 feet below sea level. The city largely relies on street drains and water pumps to prevent flooding during storms. However, this solution does not always work, and the streets are often covered in water. Instead of putting more money into pumps and drains, Ubuntu implements a new solution: Green Infrastructure. “Green infrastructure installations aim to mimic natural processes to manage stormwater while also creating a healthier urban environment,” explains their website. As in most cities, New Orleans has a lot of concrete that sheds water into the street or puddles water in driveways and yards. Ubuntu works with homeowners, developers, non-profit organizations, and a host of volunteers to remove concrete and replace it with permeable applications, such as permeable pavers and rain gardens.
These new installations allow water to drain into the ground rather than sit on the surface. The concrete is removed, then workers and volunteers dig out the area the pavers will be installed. Several layers of gravel below the pavers store water during a storm and also helps to clean the water as it runs through the gravel. Rain gardens work in a very similar way and also help to revive native plant life in the urban environment.
The importance of these projects has never been more apparent than this year, as New Orleans experienced record rainfall. “The city is on pace to hit its annual rainfall average, about 63 inches, in just seven months and to break the record maximum of 102 inches from 1991,” according to nola.com. Our goal is to meet the needs of the communities we serve in, and in New Orleans there is a great need to find creative solutions to flooding. We are excited to have a great new partner in Ubuntu and thankful for the existing relationships that continue to bring organizations together to serve our city better.