“Lakeview has easily some of the most talented people in the city of New Orleans. A lot of doctors, a lot of lawyers, a lot of engineers—smart people, great people. I have absolute faith in those people.”

—Terry Miranda, longtime Lakeview resident

Lakeview is a predominantly white suburban enclave in New Orleans. Its residents are proud of their neighborhood and fiercely independent from the rest of the city. Their children mostly attend private schools, they pay a special neighborhood tax to fund a Lakeview-only police force, and during the 1980s, they even tried to secede from New Orleans.

After floodwaters from the 17th Street Canal inundated their low-lying community, residents banded together to restore the neighborhood. Bari Landry, who was president of the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association when Katrina hit, recalls that planning for recover began even as the disaster remained underway. “I don’t think the water had stopped coming in through the levee when we were trying to get in touch with each other,” she said. Soon, a neighborhood recovery-planning group had spawned 72 subcommittees, whose members tackled everything from power restoration to mosquito control. Even as infrastructure was slowly restored, however, most residents remained hesitant to reinvest in their homes. They worried that their neighbors would never return, leaving them stranded in a sea of blighted houses.

Denise Thornton, who was one of the first people back on her devastated block, helped solve this collective action problem. She opened her house to returning families, lent them tools, and dispensed needed encouragement and advice. Denise dubbed her new endeavor the “Beacon of Hope Resource Center,” and soon, other residents began turning their own homes into Beacons. Connie Uddo, who would go on to direct a booming volunteer center at Lakeview’s Episcopal church, explained the Beacon’s work with returning residents. “Where’s your heart?” she would ask. “How are you feeling? If we showed you how you could come back and gave you resources and gave you a helping hand, do you think you would like to?”

“If they said yes,” Connie explained, “or if they were on the fence, we would say, ‘Why don’t you let us mow your yard and why don’t you meet us there if you can and then we’ll walk around your property and identify the issues that maybe are making you think you can’t come back.’ And so many times after doing that…people turn their heads where at the end of that day they were coming back.”