Originally conceived in September of 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina, Rebuilding Hope In New Orleans (RHINO) has evolved as a life-changing ministry ever since. RHINO’s work focuses around service projects and volunteer work citywide. In the wake of the storm, the staff and congregation of St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church created RHINO as a vibrant service work organization. RHINO was designed to provide an affordable, meaningful, and coordinated vehicle for concerned citizens, friends and neighbors from all over the world to help rebuild New Orleans and restore hope throughout our community.
The earliest RHINO volunteer groups converted the church’s general education building into a dormitory for future volunteers and helped staff a food and clothing bank. Within weeks of Katrina groups of RHINO volunteers were on their way to New Orleans, spending two challenging but rewarding years “gutting” homes to start families on their journeys to rebuilding their lives and homes. In RHINO’s next stages of development, volunteers worked collaboratively with New Orleans Habitat for Humanity. RHINO helped build six homes in the Upper 9th Ward’s Musicians Village. RHINO volunteers then turned their attention and talents to West Carrollton and built 14 more homes in what came to be known as “Operation Ferry Place” – an ambitious Habitat project financed by St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Since its founding, RHINO has hosted more than 6,000 volunteers from over thirty states and three countries. RHINO’s groups are comprised of college students seeking service projects, religious organizations representing a wide variety of denominations, and others committed to volunteer work. RHINO is proud to have many volunteer groups that have returned to New Orleans multiple times in the last ten years.
While other outstanding local social service organizations with their roots in Hurricane Katrina have ceased their missions, RHINO has evolved into a premier service project and mission trip destination for thousands of people who share our determination to share their faith, time, and talents with people in need.
In summer 2012 RHINO began Camp RHINO, a summer camp designed to engage youth in service projects throughout the community. Camp RHINO just completed it’s fourth year in 2015. Camp started out with less than 30 youth and has grown to over 300 campers each summer spread across six sessions. Camp offers students a chance to “start young” in learning about urban ministry and rebuilding hope. Campers have served with community gardens, construction work, summer programs for local at-risk youth, and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities.
In August 2012 when Hurricane Isaac swept aside Southeast Louisiana’s new regional flood protection system, RHINO embraced the region’s latest natural disaster as an opportunity to return to our roots. RHINO recruited and hosted volunteers from all over the country as they gutted storm-ravaged homes and helped homeowners face the daunting task of – once again – rebuilding homes and rebuilding hope.
Also that year, RHINO Board members and staff committed to taking the valuable but hard earned lessons we’ve learned to others around the US, creating a “how to” guide for start-up organizations seeking to serve their communities in need, and establishing what was initially known as Reverse RHINO to allow our own congregation members to travel to other communities and provide experienced, on-the-ground volunteer work where other disasters have struck. Since that time, SCAPC volunteers have committed their time and talents in disaster zones as diverse as tornado ravaged Oklahoma and Alabama, flood damaged Nashville and New York City, as well as impoverished communities in Appalachia.
Over the past 10 years RHINO has grown from a disaster recovery program to a premier service project and mission trip destination organization for national and international volunteers. For a visual representation of our history and service, view the presentation below! Join us as we continue our mission by serving Christ through serving others in America’s most interesting and diverse city.