Capstone’s logo in its orchard. Photo by Cameron Conklin.
Capstone strives to help the homeless population of New Orleans by working with skilled and unskilled laborers to create a cohesive community that builds on mutual support. With a focus on mentoring, homeless persons will build homes that they can live in before going on to help others rebuild houses for themselves. Capstone’s focus on community building makes it an innovative solution that goes beyond providing temporary shelter (“Capstone | New Orleans, La 70117.” Capstone | New Orleans, La 70117. Accessed June 11, 2017. http://www.capstone118.org/).
Capstone began in 2010 as the brain child of David Young, a Lower Ninth Ward resident. He, like many others, was struck by the devastation that engulfed the Lower Ninth following Hurricane Katrina. He wanted to help improve his community from the inside out, building homes and instilling useful skills into his neighbors in need. Over the last three years Capstone has transformed from its original goal as a building organization to something even bigger. Capstone now maintains gardens and orchards as well, serving to truly rebuild all aspects of its community.
Capstone has received a number of awards for its mission. David Young, the founder, was the PitchNOLA 1st place winner in 2012, earning $5,000 dollars to purchase land and materials. This past summer, David, gave an impromptu pitch for expanding his bee hive project and was awarded $300 dollars for the project at FeastNOLA (“Capstone | New Orleans, La 70117.” Capstone | New Orleans, La 70117. Accessed June 11, 2017. http://www.capstone118.org/). Capstone works with a number of organizations in the neighborhood. The Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, lowernine.org, and NENA often send them excess volunteers. They have recently received a “nuc” of bees from Our School at Blair Grocery and collaborate with a number of religious organizations, such as Togethering. Capstone also sponsors WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) who work hand in hand with David and volunteer groups on various projects in the organization for weeks at a time. Volunteer groups from around the country often lend a hand for Capstone, such as a recent group from Union UMC and James Madison University.
Capstone’s orchard. Photo by Cameron Conklin.
While Capstone is still seeking a building permit to begin home construction, it now supports and maintains four gardens and one orchard throughout the Lower Ninth Ward. The orchard in their latest project was made a reality through the PitchNOLA grant. You can find navel oranges, satsumas, Valencia oranges, blood red oranges, ruby red grapefruit, black mission figs, celestial figs, improved Meyer lemons, Persian limes, key limes, and Natchez thorn-less blackberries growing in the new orchard (“Capstone | New Orleans, La 70117.” Capstone | New Orleans, La 70117. Accessed June 11, 2017. http://www.capstone118.org/).
Capstone hosts an ‘Adopt A Plot’ program at their oldest and most developed garden, the Capstone Community Garden. This garden is an open community garden in which community members can adopt a portion to plant and grow their own fruits and vegetables next to their neighbors. The Community Garden also sports a rain garden, beautiful sunflowers, and a tool shed, courtesy of Scott’s. Capstone also hosts a number of ‘garden days’ in cooperation with organizations, such as Freedom Fellowship Ministries, to bring people together to plant seeds, grill outside, and have community fellowship.
Capstone has also recently pursued expanding bee hives in the Lower Ninth Ward. They now have bees at two locations, in a garden and the orchard. Bees are not only a great source of organic honey, but also benefit the ecosystem. Stemming from the “nuc” donated by Our School at Blair Grocery, the bee hives at CAPSTONE have really taken off. Just this July, seven gallons of honey were harvested from three hives (FaceBook. CAPSTONE. August 16th 2013. “https://www.facebook.com/david.young.5070?fref=ts&ref=br_tf”).
Capstone is one of many organizations that have worked to restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As part of a larger study of the impact and networks of non-profits in 2013, we can see that this organization excels in the following areas:
Access to Consumers, regardless of ability to pay
In terms of access to consumers, as an urban farm in the Lower Ninth Ward, Capstone serves a role that is not being filled by government or private enterprise in this community. The Lower Ninth Ward represents a food desert, which means that fresh produce is not being sold by any private firm or government entity in this neighborhood. The closest supermarket is over 3 miles away. Capstone provides fresh produce, regardless of the ability for consumers to pay, and provides easy, walk-able access for these consumers.
Provision of Collective Goods
The gardens and orchards created by Capstone are also provisions of collective goods. These gardens and orchards serve as urban landscaping and beatification. Instead of empty, overgrown lots, the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward are able to enjoy the colors and smells of the plants now growing in the Capstone gardens. They also engage in information sharing.
Opportunities to Volunteer
Capstone provides endless opportunities to volunteer, encouraging altruistic values and involving people inside and outside of the community in its mission. They support “WWOOFing” as well as groups or individuals who wish to participate.
When we analyze Capstone based on its extent of participation in information sharing activities, we see they are active in 3 ways:
Capstone trains its volunteers to learn how to maintain gardens, orchards and bee hives, harvest produce, and build enclosures for farm animals.
Capstone is active in networking. They have connections to four other organizations in this study (CSED, NENA, lowernine.org, Our School at Blair Grocery) as well as many other religious organizations and institutions outside of the community.
Capstone engages in social change through their emphasis on urban farming, organic farming, and helping the needy in their neighborhood.