August 2006

GREATER NEW ORLEANS YOUTH ORCHESTRA NEEDS OUR HELP

August 1, 2006 12:18

Dear all,
I received this email in June and actually feel somewhat ashamed that I did not post it. This is from the executive director of the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra, whom I've known for three years. The Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra is a vital and dare I say irreplaceable resource for young people and it seems that we are now, almost a year later, really seeing the ramifications of what took place last year.

If anyone can do anything to help, please contact Tracey Sherry. Her information is listed at the end of this letter.

Thanks,
Sam
------------------------------------------------
Dear friends and family,

I'm resorting to e-mail for this long but important letter because
funds (even for postage) are short and time is critical. I've spent
about 15 hours trying to shorten it, but there's simply just a lot to
explain.

Since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the MIssissippi Gulf
Coast nine months ago, even the most fortunate have been profoundly
affected: Lives lost, homes, neighborhoods and businesses destroyed,
jobs eliminated, and communities shattered. These days, it doesn’t
take much to reduce anyone around here to tears.

As our community slowly tries to piece things back together, profound
depression and suicide rates are skyrocketing. Mental health
professionals are overwhelmed. Many adults are having trouble
emotionally day to day. Kids are struggling in new schools and some
kids can’t attend school at all. For many, their pre-Katrina lives
are a distant memory and “normalcy” has taken on a new surreal
meaning. Although progress is being made in the recovery effort, it
is slow and frequently disheartening.

For anyone living elsewhere, this is all but incomprehensible. Since
Tom and I returned in December, we have given more than thirty house
guests on a tour of the 80% of New Orleans that sat flooded for three
weeks. Uniformly, they’ve come away shocked and stunned that things
were and still are this devastated. Unfortunately, a disaster like
this is simply impossible to fully comprehend without experiencing it
personally.

Among the damage that we couldn’t show them were the many destroyed
or severely crippled nonprofit arts organizations that had made pre-
Katrina New Orleans such a rich and vibrant city to live in.

This brings me to the point of my letter. I am writing to ask you to
help save the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra (GNOYO,
affectionately known as "Guh-Know-Yoh).

Several weeks ago, while representing GNOYO at a local charity
benefit, I met a mom and her two boys (both youth orchestra
participants) who were there for the same reason. When I was
introduced to her as one of GNOYO’s founders, to my surprise she
began to cry and hugged me hard for a very long time, thanking me
profusely through her tears all the while. It was a bit overwhelming
and I ended up in tears as well.

Although their home had been destroyed by 8 feet of water and the
school where she’d been principal had been destroyed by 11 feet of
water, they considered themselves fortunate: She’d been relocated to
one of the few schools that have been reopened and her family of six
had found a two-bedroom apartment, albeit located in a somewhat rough
neighborhood.

She told me that GNOYO was helping Jared and Linton reconnect with
friends that they’d lost touch with during the long evacuation and
giving them new friends with similar interests. She told me that the
weekly rehearsals gave her boys a much needed emotional outlet, and
that GNOYO was the only normal part of their lives left post-Katrina.
She told me over and over again how grateful she was that GNOYO was
already up and running.

Since I co-founded the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra twelve
years ago, I have poured my heart and soul as an unpaid volunteer
into long hours of work to ensure that it grew and flourished. And
flourish it has!

Pre-Katrina, GNOYO had grown from two tiny orchestras, 60 kids and
initial expenses provided by our family’s credit cards in 1994 into a
thriving nonprofit arts organization with a lean $300,000 annual
budget, five orchestras, 250 kids, an instrument-scholarship outreach
program for underprivileged kids, a chamber music program and a
summer festival. It became the official youth orchestra of the
Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the resident orchestra at the
prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts high school.

If this were not enough, GNOYO became the “poster child” of the
greater New Orleans nonprofit community, respected for its efficient
management, outstanding educational programs and fiscal
responsibility. We’ve had eleven years in the black, and in 2004, we
funded a modest endowment!

And then last August, Hurricane Katrina destroyed GNOYO’s office,
computer equipment, and almost all of our instruments. She also “blew
away” our executive director and music director (Katrina-related
relocation) and about 40% of our young musicians.

Katrina’s financial impact upon GNOYO has been staggering for several
other reasons:

• The loss of tuition from evacuated and relocated GNOYO students

• Reduced ticket sales due to our scattered audience

• Most individual and business donors were severely impacted by the
storm and hence lost at least for the short term.

Despite these challenges, GNOYO’s five orchestras began rehearsing in
mid-October and have since performed 6 concerts! Over the past six
months, many parents have told our staff and board members over and
over again how much GNOYO has helped their children deal with the
emotional aftermath of the storm.

Although most of our musical instruments have been replaced and our
board has worked long hours fundraising and creating a realistic
balanced budget for 2006-2007, GNOYO is nonetheless currently
projecting a budgetary shortfall (for the first time ever!) of
$50,000 for the current fiscal year.

I have personally committed myself to raising as much of this
shortfall in the next few weeks as possible because the cause is so
important to me and to the kids of our community. Because many of
GNOYO’s traditional supporters here in New Orleans are still
struggling, I’m reaching out for help to anyone and everyone that I
can think of, starting with my own family and friends.

I know that many of you have already generously contributed money,
supplies and/or volunteer time to the ongoing Katrina recovery
effort. Please dig even deeper and contribute whatever you can to
ensure that GNOYO's award-winning programs survive Katrina.

Some of you may only be able to afford $25, and some $1000 or more.
Contributions at any level will be gratefully received. In addition
to having their physical needs met, today, tomorrow, and next year,
our community’s children desperately need their hearts and souls
nurtured as well. And what better way to do it than through music!

Contributions should be sent to:

The Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra
938 Lafayette Street, Suite 206
New Orleans LA 70113

• Be sure to put “Re: T. Sherry” on the memo line so that GNOYO can
alert me to thank you personally!

With your contribution comes the knowledge that you have helped GNOYO
go into its 13th season as financially strong and secure as it was
before Katrina, enabling it to maintain its programs’ outstanding
breadth and depth. Your name will be listed (unless you ask
otherwise) as a donor in next season’s programs as well as being
forever etched with gratitude in my heart.

With my deepest thanks for your support,

Tracey

P.S. Please pass this on to others who might be interested in helping
with this effort.

P.P.S. If you’d like further information on GNOYO, please e-mail or
call me, visit www.gnoyo.org or call the GNOYO office at 504-(504)
528-7720

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