OWU Magazine

January 13, 2016 | By Ohio Wesleyan University

Rebuilding Homes and Lives

Zachary Rosenburg ’95 and his wife Liz McCartney were featured in People Magazine in August 2015 for their efforts to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.

In 2006 the couple founded the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to such rebuilding, after leaving their home in Washington, D.C., to support victims of Hurricane Katrina. Since Katrina, the organization has expanded its services to those in other areas of need, including recent flood victims in South Carolina and Texas.

Starting a nonprofit was never in Zach’s plans. “I thought I would be a criminal defense lawyer until I was 50 and then be a high school principal,” he says. However, when the couple arrived in New Orleans for what was intended to be a two-week trip, they saw too many people in need to turn back. They moved to the area permanently and, after hosting a couple of fundraisers to accumulate start-up funds, launched the St. Bernard Project.

“I think that humans are hard-wired to cause impact and fix things, whether it is in corporations or people-serving organizations,” Zach says. “I am driven by the challenges that we face: ensuring that post-disaster recovery in America is commensurate with our country’s needs and true potential.”

The work is difficult, to be sure, but Zach and Liz are dedicated to reducing the time between disaster and complete recovery. “We want homeowners to have a prompt, efficient, and predictable path home,” Zach says. “The St. Bernard Project’s work is a big challenge—we are working to change the way that success is measured in post-disaster recovery: a switch from measuring process, to measuring impact.”

As Zach and Liz look ahead, they know their services will continue to be in high demand—and they remain focused on being there to provide that help.