YPO Volunteers on Site

On Hermes Street in New Orleans East, nine CEOs and entrepreneurs joined NOAHH on site during their Young Presidents Organization retreat in March. Tom Gregg, a restaurateur, coordinated the build for the last day of their trip so that these old friends would have a chance to work together.

“We’ve known each other at least 20 years,” he said. “Some of the guys in the group are really good at building houses and some like myself barely ever picked up a hammer. It’s different, so I was carrying things more than I was hammering. I didn’t wanna ruin this nice guy’s house that’s being built now. Some [of us] know how to do build things. He was much more helpful.”

The build was inspired by his previous experiences with Habitat. In Baltimore, they worked on a blitz build that saw a home finished in a single day. Their trip to New Orleans saw them working on the framing of a home alongside a half-dozen others.

“Around 10 years ago, we did a project for the Habitat in Baltimore,” he said. “We did it for a day. A lot of people did it for a day, but they finished the entire house. I was thinking there’s gotta be something like that that we could do down here after Katrina. I know it’s a long time ago now, but it’s still fresh on our minds. I thought it’d be cool to do that again, especially with this group.”

Paul Centenari, who owns a company making corrugated boxes, says he appreciated the sweat equity component of Habitat’s homeownership program.

“Habitat is a phenomenal, phenomenal organization,” Paul said. “It’s a very honorable thing to do to help people who need housing and give them a stake in the action. They got to work. They got to put in their 350 hours. They also have to be able to make payments. We like that. We like people who want to help people get on their feet, and Habitat’s doing that. We like the work. We like the people at Habitat. We love what they’re up to and the mission they’re on.”

For the nine CEOs, the day was a change of pace. Not only was it a warm spring day compared to the weather in DC and Baltimore, but it also was a chance to get out of the office.

“It’s a beautiful day out here in the sun,” said Paul. “It’s not one of these days where I’d rather be in the office, that’s for sure. Just being outside working with your hands is a lot different than anything any of us do. That is a very different experience for us. We don’t do this often. Manual labor. That’s good. When you’re done, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. You look back and you see something you put up. that’s rewarding. More important than that is we’re helping. If we’re gonna get out of the office and do this kinda stuff. We have to do it for people in need.”

“I’ve been very lucky in my life,” said Tom. “I like to give back, doing stuff for other groups. I’m hoping to give back a bit more. Entrepreneurs and CEOs like us tend to work long hours. It’s a good time to start giving back.”