Director’s spotlight: Our Resilient Community

This story appeared in the April issue of the PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door monthly? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!

Boy, am I grateful to live in New Orleans.

As I write this, two weeks before the magazine will show up in mailboxes, it seems an illogical thing to say. The number of coronavirus cases are rapidly rising, likely positioning us to be in the top ranks in the nation for cases per capita. Being in this hot spot may be many people’s worst nightmare.

But the likely culprit for why cases are so high here in New Orleans — Carnival season, balls, salons and clubs, countless opportunities to visit the incredible restaurants, bars and music venues in this city, and the generally warm, social nature of our people — are the very reason that, when the virus has passed and normalcy resumes, I will be joyful to return to “business as usual” in New Orleans.

We are a community focused on community. We love each other, and we take care of each other. We thrive together, and need the support of those around us to survive. That makes this time in New Orleans particularly hard for so many of us. Walking the dogs around the block this morning, I waved from a distance at neighbors, and shouted, “I miss you,” to the wonderful staff of our corner bakery. Seeing Magazine Street empty, and being fearful of anyone who passes too closely, makes me ache.

But those who are healthy enough to feel such an ache are blessed, and we must stay strong for the afflicted and grieving, as well as do all we can to financially support everyone who will struggle as our economy slows drastically during this time. After my walk, I placed a take-out order from the bakery, and will do so often. I wasn’t even hungry. But its presence in our neighborhood is important, and I fear for the financial stability of its employees. I know that many people in our community will support the businesses that enrich our lives in this tough time. The inability to go for a world class meal, or visit a familiar haunt, makes us appreciate the opportunity all the more.

When this passes, we will be able to come together once more, as a community, and support one another, as New Orleanians do. It will be so sweet.

One of our family’s only times to leave the house each day is to go on a walk around the neighborhood. Walking past the colorful array of shotguns on the blocks surrounding my home, I am incredibly grateful for the 46 years of work the staff, board and volunteers of the Preservation Resource Center have done to keep our historic neighborhoods intact. At the end of 2018, the PRC amended its mission statement to add “cultural identity” to the list of what we protect. Our work protects New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods, but also our city’s truly unique cultural heritage.

For many years, we’ve worked hard to celebrate and protect the places and culture we love so much. We have renovated the homes of original jazz greats and put plaques on sites of jazz importance in the city. Last fall, we launched our Revival Grants program to work closely with families — all culture-bearers — in Tremé to complete essential home repairs that will keep them in the neighborhood. This work is more important than ever, as we’re all home bound and these residents need safe houses in which to pass their days and nights.

We are adjusting our educational offerings so that our members and supporters can take PRC classes online while taking all precautions to be socially distant during this time of coronavirus. And we will continue to offer incredible communications outreach to our community, with Preservation in Print delivered to members’ homes, and our social media accounts delivering interesting and uplifting content to brighten your day. If you don’t already follow us online, please look us up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@prcnola) and join. You won’t regret it.

I give sincere thanks to all of our supporters at this time when our revenues are suffering. Your continued support of PRC gives us stability and hope in this scary time, when so many of our city’s cultural institutions are suffering. Thank you so much.

Though the PRC has postponed our events for the time being, it will be joyful to reunite when it’s safe to do so. Blessings for good health and safety to all of PRC’s friends and supporters in this unprecedented time. God bless all of us, and God bless New Orleans.

Danielle Del Sol is the Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center.