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Home for the holidays: A dream worth building all year

December 20, 2018
Kevin Rafferty
Kevin Rafferty

Home for the holidays. We hear that a lot this time of year.

From carols and cards to the make-believe of TV movies, the sentiment can conjure a nostalgic, if not idealized, sense of what we want the season to be. For some, it’s carefully orchestrated celebrations straight from Norman Rockwell’s palette. For others, it’s gift-laden trees and outdoor lights that test the limits of local power grids. For many, it’s simply looking forward to going back.

Sadly, though, for entirely too many people in this land of plenty, a home for the holidays can mean a far away or fading dream.

Affordable housing, healthy neighborhoods

As a longtime Louisiana banker and the national chair of Rebuilding Together, I’ve seen what the right partnerships and strong community commitment can do to secure a home for the holidays—and every day—for folks trying to make ends meet. Rebuilding Together is a national non-profit with a network of 139 local affiliates around the country, including many Hancock Whitney markets, dedicated to repairing homes, revitalizing communities, and rebuilding lives.

At our bank and Rebuilding Together, we’re both very adept through experience at recovering from natural disasters such as Louisiana’s 2016 floods and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. We’re also both working toward solutions to slow or reverse an insidious and mostly man-made national disaster—the gentrification and subsequent disappearance of established low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods.

Through organizations such as Rebuilding Together, it’s possible to restore these communities for people who want to stay in place and to foster affordable housing options for folks needing a start or to start over. We can also teach people what it takes to keep and keep up a safe, comfortable home, to ensure legal title succession, and to select reliable resources and services.

The power of doing good

Helping rejuvenate neighborhoods and make home ownership dreams real can have a ripple effect.

After Hurricane Harvey, Hancock Whitney gave $50,000 to Rebuilding Together to help Texas communities devastated by the storm. That contribution funded a staff position that, ultimately, brought in $6 million in grants to help people in hard-hit neighborhoods around greater Houston, Lockport, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont, Texas, as well as Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We can’t all give thousands of dollars, but one small deed can do wonders. Whether with a small but heartfelt donation, hands-on volunteerism, or both, we can all do something to help someone realize the dream of having and keeping a home to call theirs.

St. Roch Homeowner

A home for every day: Hancock Whitney associates volunteered
with Rebuilding Together to help residents of New Orleans’ St. Roch
community keep their neighborhood strong and homes safe and secure.


Why what we do matters

For its annual national Building A Healthy Neighborhood project in 2018, Rebuilding Together selected New Orleans’ historic St. Roch neighborhood, just blocks from where I started my banking career 40 years earlier. During those three days in St. Roch, we heard heartwarming and heartbreaking stories from homeowners. For me, though, the experience that still inspires me to help make neighborhoods better happened in Houston many years ago.

An African-American World War II veteran who served at Iwo Jima and Okinawa was struggling to stay in his house. For years, he’d done all the home maintenance himself, but for health reasons, he simply couldn’t continue. While we were repairing his home, he shared that he had been on burial detail during the war. He knew he would never see the front lines, but he took great pride in what he considered a sacred duty for his country:  to honor with the greatest professionalism and reverence possible the individuals who had given their lives in defense of freedom.

I’ll never forget that gentleman or his passion, patriotism, integrity, and service. In the decades since, I’ve seen so many people like him, men and women, young and old, working hard to have or keep a home but needing and deserving that proverbial “hand-up.”

Achieving dreams

Recognized at the National Housing Conference, Rebuilding Together strives to rekindle the neighbor-helping-neighbor spirit at the heart of the communities Hancock Whitney serves. Collectively over 30 years, they’ve completed work on more than 200,000 homes and community centers—roughly, about 10,000 homes each year.

At Hancock Whitney, helping people achieve their financial dreams has been our mission since the 1800s. Through partnerships with Rebuilding Together and countless other organizations across our five-state footprint as well as special Hancock Whitney programs, we’ll continue creating opportunities for affordable housing, community and economic development, and strong, vibrant neighborhoods.                                                                                                  

As each of us settles into our own celebrations, let’s think beyond whatever the holidays mean to us and carry the giving and caring so central to this season well into the new year. By working together in our communities, we can all help make someone’s dream of a home for the holidays an everyday reality.

To learn more about Rebuilding Together, visit https://rebuildingtogether.org/.