The Preservation Resource Center was thrilled to welcome William Stoudt as the new director of Rebuilding Together New Orleans late last year. William comes to RTNO with exemplary experience from Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, a local nonprofit that he helped found in 2006. His family lost their Lakeview home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; after spending the first four months after the storm in Houston, Stoudt, then a high-school student at Jesuit High School, wanted to help others upon returning to New Orleans. He and a few friends linked up with other high school students across the region and the group organized, within a year, into a youth council with 20 chapters at 20 schools.
Youth Rebuilding New Orleans continued to grow, with up to 400 students showing up some days at volunteer sites to gut homes and clear debris. “Everyone was in need in those early days post-Katrina,” Stoudt said. “We’d be working on one home, and the house next to it would also need to be gutted, so we’d move to it next.”
Stoudt was an original board member of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. As months passed and high school graduation neared, some of the other founders and board members had to limit involvement as they started jobs, moved away to attend college, or tended to other commitments. Stoudt stuck with it, though, volunteering hours every week on job sites and to keep the organization running.
He continued to do this through four years at Tulane University, where he earned a business degree. As graduation neared and he began applying for jobs, he realized that no job he might apply for would matter to him as much as what he was already doing with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. A friend of his helped put it in perspective: ‘“You’ve already built this organization,’ she told me. ‘Now you just how to figure out how to get paid.’
“At that point the nonprofit had pivoted from organizing and deploying volunteers to acquiring and renovating blighted properties, so we had a way to create revenue,” he explained. Stoudt approached the board and they agreed that he should become the first paid employee of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans — Stoudt became executive director in 2010.
In his six-year tenure as director, Stoudt grew the organization from a volunteer vehicle to a nonprofit focused on readying youth for futures in a city they’re invested in. Initiatives included job training programs for youth in construction, the Future Leaders Initiative, which sent young leaders to local high schools to teach students skills such as interviewing, résumé writing and public speaking, and the Free Enterprise Leadership Team, which taught high school students about real estate development, finance and project management while overseeing the purchase, renovation and sale of a home that could earn them scholarship money.
The organization also continued to buy homes, rehabilitate them and resell them. Stoudt went from being the only employee to the head of a staff of up to 10 people.
After six years he was eager for an opportunity to evolve and do something new, and was excited to learn about the opportunity with Rebuilding Together New Orleans. “I really like the component of working with homeowners directly,” he said. “It’s something that’s unique about RTNO.”
He’s also eager to bring the experience he gained in his old job with job training to RTNO. “Training the city’s youth will increase the way we provide impact to the community,” he said. “Young people will have an economic stake in New Orleans.”
After nearly a decade balancing books and doing the work of five people, having an accounting department, a warehouse, tools and a truck at RTNO is “a total luxury,” he said. He’s excited to grow the opportunities and reach of RTNO, and we are fortunate to have him.