Beacon of Hope in New Orleans


When Rick Larsen and I started visiting New Orleans in early 2007 to identify charities for the “Operation Kids: Rebuilding Dreams in New Orleans” campaign, one of the first people we met was Denise Thornton.  Denise was the founder and president of what was, at the time, a brand-new and still small charity called Beacon of Hope Resource Center.  Denise and her husband Doug had founded “Beacon” after returning home following Hurricane Katrina.


You can imagine the challenges they faced as they tried to repair their flood-damaged home.  They had to coordinate the clean-up, turn back on utilities, purchase tools and materials, and hire contractors.  It was daunting.

For many of their neighbors, it seemed too daunting. Those residents postponed their return or gave up entirely because they didn’t see how the city could recover or how they could survive while the neighborhoods around them were so badly damaged.  So while most people waited, the neighborhood languished and the recovery stumbled along. 

Except for Denise and Doug Thornton and their friends and supporters.  They formed the first Beacon of Hope in their Lakewood neighborhood to provide information, support, and resources to residents wanting to return home.  They later added services in the form of advocacy, community programs and coordination of external volunteers in order to ensure that whole neighborhoods could recover and, eventually, they would help a city thrive.

The Beacon concept was an amazing success.  Today, the organization supports 12 resource centers (Beacons) servicing 22 neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Beacon serves an estimated 10,000 children living in 20,000 households in the Lake Area (Lakeview and Lakewood neighborhoods), Gentilly, Pontilly, and the Lower Ninth Ward in Orleans Parish. Those neighborhoods range from 79% recovered (Lakewood) to 19% (Lower Ninth Ward).  

And Beacon has even assisted communities outside of Louisiana that are trying to recover from their own natural disasters.  No wonder that it has been recognized locally, nationally and even by the United Nations for its community rebuilding efforts.

In 2008, Operation Kids and its partner, the Brees Dream Foundation, contributed $60,000 to Beacon to continue its important rebuilding efforts. Bacon will use the funding at several neighborhood centers, including on projects planned for the still-recovering Gentilly community.  In October, for example, Beacon hosted its largest volunteer project ever when nearly 2000 volunteers turned out to rejuvenate the Mirabeau Gardens neighborhood in Gentilly. They installed a new playground, planted 300 trees, cleaned and cut down 85 overgrown lots, and assisted 58 homeowners with rebuilding their properties.  

The Beacon of Hope Resource Center staff and volunteers continue to do tremendous work. We’re proud to support them in their efforts.


Steve Reiher, VP of Marketing & Development






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Filed under Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Project updates, Reconstruction

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