A Drop in the Bucket
By Tina Antolini
Some causes are worth painting oneself gold for . . .
At least, that’s Robert Fogarty’s line of thinking. You might remember him from SOTRU’s NOLA episode; he’s among the bright, energetic young folks who’ve enthusiastically made New Orleans their home in the years post-Hurricane Katrina. Well, in addition to his unorthodox business Dear New Orleans, Robert is the founder of Evacuteer.org. What’s that and how does it all add up to gold body paint? That’s got a bit of a story attached.
Back in 2008, Robert was working for the mayor’s office when Hurrican Gustav began to threaten Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Here was a chance to show that NOLA had learned some emergency-management lessons from Katrina. As volunteer coordinator, Robert was in charge of figuring out how to work ordinary residents into the process of evacuating tens of thousands of people. Usually the ones leading the evacuations are with the military—and the last thing a stressed out evacuee wants to see is guys with guns. So, Robert helped recruit community leaders like neighborhood association presidents to be the communicators, the ones who actually interface with residents. During Gustav, they had 219 volunteers help evacuate 18,000 people. And Robert got an idea: what if we work on training a corps of people who want to be involved in coordinating the evacuation before a hurricane looms?
During Katrina, there was a whole crew of able-bodied people who were evacuated and then had to sit in a Super 8 Motel in a distant place and watch their city drown. “What we have now is an opportunity,” Robert told me last spring. Instead of the helpless feeling so many had during Katrina, “we can provide another option. All those people who watched it happen, they can answer phones, they can hand out water…”
Thus, Evacuteer.org was born. More than 700 people have now signed up, pledging themselves to work at least two 8-hour shifts should another hurricane hit. And here’s where the gold body paint enters in…
Right now, the sign for where evacuees in New Orleans should head is pretty puny.
Robert and others saw an opportunity to, instead, make it something big and beautiful… a public art project that doubles as a Hurricane Evacuation pick-up point. Something more like this:
But first, money had to be raised. So, to get a little attention, Robert had his friends paint him gold and he hit the streets looking for donations. You can watch a video of how it went here.
After a lot of golden persistence, they raised $173.28 from 130 strangers. A feat, but hardly enough to cover the project. So, they took it to the web. On The Magic Bucket.org, that morphed into $30,000. And now, they’ve been offered another $20,000 if they can bring in $20,000 to match it. That’ll turn into 17 places around New Orleans with permanent public art/evacuation pick-ups…. Not bad for a little gold body paint.