Project Homecoming, Inc. (PHI) recently announced the appointment of Kris Pottharst as Executive Director effective April 8, 2015. Pottharst succeeds the Rev. Jean Marie Peacock, founder of Project Homecoming, who returns to pastoral and community ministry in the New Orleans area.
A fourth-generation native of New Orleans, Pottharst brings to the position extensive executive leadership in non-profit organizations, including New Orleans Food and Farm Network, Advocates for Science and Math Education, Inc., and founding roles in the Parkway Partners Community Gardens Project and the Education Department of the Contemporary Arts Center.
For over 15 years, she has provided leadership in non-profit administration and project fund-development focused on underserved populations. Since Hurricane Katrina, she has been instrumental in developing some of New Orleans most creative community-based initiatives: Hollygrove Market and Farm (an urban farm and community food center) and the New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School (open enrollment public/private partnership high school).
“Project Homecoming is embracing its expanding vision of neighborhood health and stability with this appointment”, says board chair Mary Alexander. “Our staff is one of the strongest in the city, and Kris will enhance those existing strengths.”
“I believe that sustainable change must be rooted in community involvement and fueled by volunteer enthusiasm,” Pottharst says. “Project Homecoming’s church and community collaboration, as well as its commitment to sustainability and evidence-based practices, utilizes resources with respect.”
In 2006, Peacock founded Project Homecoming to respond to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Originally a ministry of the Presbytery of South Louisiana with major funding from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Project Homecoming provided coordination for tens of thousands of volunteers from around the country who came to New Orleans to assist in recovery and rebuilding.
In the last ten years, PHI has built over 250 houses with the efforts of over 10,000 volunteers. Under Peacock’s leadership, the organization built a strong reputation for reliability and sustainability that attracted the praise and attention of governmental agencies and funding organizations nationwide. As its organizational capacity grew, PHI developed alternative funding sources that made it possible to provide job-training, access to low-cost financing, and partnerships with neighborhood organizations.
"It has been a blessing to be involved in the development and growth of Project Homecoming," says Peacock. "The staff and volunteers are passionate about making a difference, and it shows in the impact Project Homecoming is having as lives and neighborhoods are transformed. The future of the organization is in very capable hands under the leadership of Ms. Pottharst."
Peacock leaves Project Homecoming to return to her roots in church-based community organizing. She is serving as the Executive Director of a new nonprofit, Westbank Community Ministries, which has been initiated by Faith Presbyterian Church in Harvey, Louisiana. This network of ministries is focused on supporting the spiritual, physical, and emotional well being of individuals, families, and neighborhoods in the Westbank area of Jefferson and Orleans Parish.
Project Homecoming is establishing the Peacock-Nolan fund to honor Peacock and long-time board member Brenda Nolan, who died in 2014. This fund will sustain PHI's core mission of helping New Orleans homeowners return to their houses and communities.