AmeriCorps Project Co-Founder Named CNN Hero of the Year

Thanksgiving night, Anderson Cooper will name Liz McCartney, co-founder of the St. Bernard Project in New Orleans, CNN’s Hero of the Year. The Project credits the involvement of AmeriCorps members with its success.

The following is copied directly from the press release issued by the Corporation for National and Community Service that funds and governs AmeriCorps programs:

Ms. Beatrice and a relative

Ms. Beatrice and a relative

Washington DC — Liz McCartney, cofounder of a Louisiana nonprofit that engages volunteers and AmeriCorps members to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, was named the 2008 CNN Hero of the Year at a ceremony Saturday night in Hollywood.

McCartney received $100,000 to continue the project’s work in rebuilding homes in St. Bernard Parish. McCartney had already received $25,000 for being one of 10 finalists.

The “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” ceremony, hosted by AC 360 host Anderson Cooper and featuring musical performances by Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, and John Legend, will be broadcast on CNN at 9 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving.

“To the country and the world, I ask you to please join us,” said McCartney in her acceptance speech. “Together we can continue to rebuild families’ homes and lives. If you join us, we’ll be unstoppable.”

The top ten finalists were selected from more than 3,700 nominations by a panel that included Magic Johnson, Kristi Yamaguchi, Deepak Chopra, and Desmond Tutu. McCartney was chosen as CNN Hero of the Year after six weeks of online voting in which more than 1 million votes were cast.

Liz McCartney, CNN Hero of the Year 2008

Liz McCartney, CNN Hero of the Year 2008

McCartney formed the St. Bernard Project two years ago with her boyfriend Zack Rosenburg after the couple came to the New Orleans area to volunteer in the wake of Katrina.  Shocked by the widespread destruction, they quit their professional jobs in Washington D.C. and moved to Louisiana.

The project has mobilized more than 9,000 volunteers to renovate and reconstruct 151 homes for residents of St. Bernard Parish.  It has relied heavily on the intensive service of AmeriCorps members to do construction work and manage volunteers. In the past two years, 260 AmeriCorps members have provided more than 80,000 hours of service, trained and managed more than 8,000 volunteers; supervised and worked side-by-side with volunteers to rebuild 120 families’ homes; provided more than $1 million worth of in kind volunteer supervision and labor; and helped raise more than $2 million in funds.

“We would not be where we are today without our partnership with AmeriCorps. This award is a tribute to all of our efforts,” McCartney said yesterday.  “Our relationship with AmeriCorps has been a very powerful and effective force for the community.”

The project works with families to do reconstruction work that’s needed to allow them to move back in. This varies from house to house but typically includes mold remediation, rewiring, plumbing, insulation, sheetrock, cabinetry, installing appliances and cabinets, and other tasks. It takes an average of 12 weeks and $12,000 to rebuild a home.

“I am surrounded by the people who are the real heroes, the people of St. Bernard who have put up with so many challenges and are still fighting for their community. The problems are big but the solutions are readily available. This award is great for the community because it will put St. Bernard and the New Orleans area in the national spotlight and show that we are making progress but still need volunteers,” McCartney said.

At the CNN Heroes ceremony, the top 10 finalists were introduced by celebrity presenters including actors Cameron Diaz, Salma Hayek, John Krasinski, Forest Whitaker, Meg Ryan, Terrence Howard, Lucy Liu, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale and Selena Gomez.  The CNN Heroes campaign salutes everyday people accomplishing extraordinary things in their communities and beyond.  For more information about CNN Heroes, visit

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. Each year, the Corporation engages four million Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs. For more information, visit

See the original The New Service post about Liz McCartney as a Top Ten Hero from Oct. 24.

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