Volunteer Profile: Jeff Hart of AGA
Eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina, Jeff Hart, as national president of the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), reached out to his group to rally volunteers to come to New Orleans to help out. A former national president of the AGA was living in a FEMA trailer in New Orleans East, and Jeff knew that if a senior manager was having trouble rebuilding, so was the rest of the city.
“He was still working,” Jeff said. “He was getting his house rebuilt. He was finding contractors, and 18 months later, his house was almost to the point where they could move back into it, but not quite. I thought well obviously people that live here don’t have the time, let alone maybe the emotional ability to help rebuild their own city. I thought, ‘this is one thing I can do.'”
His first thought was to come down and volunteer by himself, but he realized he could do more with the AGA. Thus began a tradition, year after year, of giving back. When their national convention was held in New Orleans, they brought out over 50 people to the site, though most years, it’s a smaller–but still impactful–group.
“The first few years, the progress was slow because it was so bad to start with, obviously, but after 4 or 5 years, you started to see a difference,” Jeff said. “It feels good to be part of–a small part of–helping rebuild the city. It takes a lot of people to make a big dent, but if you see things getting better all around, you can say we helped a little bit.”
Like so many who come to New Orleans, whether before or after the storm, Jeff bonded with the culture and especially the music. After his first visit in June, he discovered both Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest, and he began organizing visits around the festivals, allowing the team each year time to enjoy the city of New Orleans as well as giving back.