Hurricane Katrina Volunteer still
helping as 7th anniversary of the
Summary: Iray Nabatoff, Founder and Executive
Director of the Community Center of St Bernard in
Arabi, Louisiana, has been working as a fulltime
volunteer in the Katrina recovery effort since 2006.
Under his direction the Center has assisted more
than 15,000 hurricane survivors and continues to
serve more than 4,300 individuals every year.
Quote: "Our goal is to make essential services available here in St
Bernard Parish so that recovering families can readily access the
help they need to rebuild their lives and their communities." Iray
Nabatoff, Executive Director, Community Center of St Bernard
(August 21, 2012) Iray Nabatoff’s life changed dramatically
in January 2006. When he heard about the horrific
destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, Iray left his home in
Acworth, NH and went to Louisiana to volunteer. Iray’s
original intention was to stay for a few weeks, helping to
serve 1300 meals each day to local residents and relief
But as he talked with people who had lost everything --
from clothes to cars to pets to homes, and even family
members -- Iray’s plans for a short stay turned into a long-
term commitment. He flew back to New Hampshire to tie
up his former life, then returned to St Bernard Parish, LA in
February 2006. Living first in a tent, and later in a FEMA
trailer (a place he still calls home) Iray brought together
returning residents to found the nonprofit Community
Center of St Bernard.
After extensive renovation of a Katrina-damaged building,
the Center opened its doors in January 2007 with Iray as the
unpaid fulltime volunteer Executive Director, a position he
still holds. When Iray helped to found the Community
Center, he intended to provide a “one-stop shop” where St
Bernard residents could receive free, local access to
essential recovery resources from across the greater New
6 years have now passed since the Community Center was
founded, and under Iray’s guidance it has grown into one of
the premier recovery resource providers in the greater New
Orleans area. When the Gulf Oil Spill threatened the
livelihoods of coastal St Bernard residents during 2010, the
Center was there to help immediately with food, clothes,
information, referrals, and emotional support. In just the
The Center’s Food Pantry has given out 263,634 lbs of food to 4,351
unduplicated low-income individuals.
Office staff have passed out 9,816 flyers, brochures and pamphlets to help
families find the help they need. They've also made 4,778 referrals.
159 people have signed up for the Community Center’s free computer
The Clothing Bank has been accessed 11,224 times.
1,850 people have received assistance in applying for the federal Food
141 senior citizens have received information about the federal SCSEP
training program for low-income seniors.
5,408 free books have been given out in the Center’s reading area.
And the Center’s media lab (internet computers, public phones, fax &
copying services) has been used 3,889 times
Iray’s success in turning the Community Center of St Bernard
from a simple vision into a real bricks-and-mortar facility where
thousands of families come for practical assistance with the
problems they face is a shining example of the difference that
one individual can make in the lives of those around him.
For more information about the
Community Center of St Bernard and its
ongoing efforts to assist hurricane Katrina
survivors, please visit