By Kathleen Welch
Project Lazarus is a non-profit dedicated to helping heal and empower individuals living with HIV/AIDS by focusing on wellness, providing housing, and offering important supportive services. While our sustainability program has focused on improving our environmental impact, it is hard to not talk about our social impact as well. The staff and residents of Project Lazarus continue to work together to build strong programs that improve the quality of living for our residents and empower our residents to be strong advocates for themselves. Two programs in particular, Wellness University and LazWorks, exemplify our commitment to identifying and addressing the needs of our residents. Wellness University is an incentive based classroom experience, where residents take classes ranging from financial literacy, medication management, HIV 101, to photography, mediation, and fitness. We also offer courses to help residents get their GED. Meanwhile, LazWorks is a brand-new resident employment program. Project Lazarus began as a hospice, and we are proud to say that now we can focus on living and living well.
1 ) What are some of your proudest moments as owner/employee of Project Lazarus?
In regard to our social impact, my proudest moment was last month when we hired our first resident to fill a staff position as part of a pilot program called LazWorks. The program is intended to get our residents back into the work force, many of whom have barriers to employment ranging from physical disabilities, long gaps in their work history, criminal records, lack of education, and being members of already marginalized groups. While the position is only part-time, we are currently writing grants and looking for funding to expand the program. In regard to our environmental impact, I’m proud of the work we are doing in our gardens. We are installing our first native plant garden, we are already installed a butterfly garden, and have worked hard to reduce chemical use and energy/water consumption in maintaining the eight gardens we have on property.
2) How does your organization go about improving your social and environmental impacts?
Project Lazarus stays open to change and innovation. We accept that what works right now, may not work tomorrow. We have amazing leadership through our Executive Director and Board of Directors that encourage out of the box thinking and unique collaborations with other organizations to improve our services. Project Lazarus also values staff by supporting professional development, work/life balance, and community involvement, and providing excellent benefits and competitive salaries.
3) What partnerships have you formed in order to leverage sustainable impact as a company?
One specific partnership was with Global Green USA through the NOLAWise program. This program allowed us to invest over $40,000 in energy efficiency upgrades for our buildings, which are over 125 years old.
4) If you had a magic wand to change one thing that would make it easier for your company or other New Orleans businesses to go green, what would that thing be?
I would use that magic wand to increase the communities understanding of impact.
5) What advice would you give to other businesses who are trying to improve their internal practices to benefit their city and state?
Look for and utilize partnerships and collaborations. We are working with Delgado Community College’s Horticulture Department to help design a new native plant garden. We are working with EcoUrban to decrease water consumption used in the irrigation of our gardens. And we’ve always had a close relationship with Cake Café, who donated an espresso machine to Project Lazarus, which we will use in our Laz Café. Laz Café is run by residents and raises funds for resident activities. We hope to merge Laz Café with our LazWorks program in the future. And we are looking for other Life City partners and businesses in New Orleans to help us reach our other sustainability goals for this year, which include increasing our use of green cleaning products, sourcing more items we purchase locally, and decrease water consumption in our buildings and gardens.
6) Anything else you would like to tell our community of Green Card members and Green Businesses such as upcoming events or promotions they should look out for?
Project Lazarus is on the verge of opening our event space, The Cottage, for private rentals. The space is currently hosting a training event for a cosmetics company, and is idea for trainings, meetings, and retreats. The space is equipped with a full-kitchen, a back porch and patio seating area surrounded by gardens, and can sleep up to ten. Once operational, this space will be offered to Life City Members at a discounted rate, so stay tuned at www.ProjectLazarus.net.