The New Orleans Saints might be dealing with the reality of life after Drew Brees, but fortunately for the city of New Orleans, the future Hall of Famer is still entrenched in the city well after hanging up his cleats.
Shortly after Drew Brees joined the New Orleans Saints in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, he immediately started giving back to the New Orleans Community. Shortly after arriving in New Orleans, Brees and his foundation helped raise over $1.5 million to re-build schools, parks, playgrounds, and more that were damaged during Katrina. Fast forward 14 years, and Drew Brees and his wife personally donated $5 million dollars to local food banks in the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Drew Brees retired from professional football on March 14, 2021. He might no longer be able to help New Orleans on the football field, but he is still finding ways to help the city of New Orleans. Less than one month after Brees announced his retirement, an Ochsner Community Health Center was opened in Baton Rouge thanks to sponsorship funding by Drew Brees and his nonprofit, the Brees Dream Foundation.
Now, with yet another opportunity to find a way to help New Orleans and the surrounding communities, the former Super Bowl MVP and future Hall of Famer has stepped up yet again.
Exactly 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Ida struck southern Louisiana as a strong Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 29, 2021. The storm left the New Orleans Saints displaced for the preseason and the 2021 season’s opening three weeks. For many in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, however, the New Orleans Saints were the least of their concerns after Ida.
Without homes, electricity, water, jobs, or even loved ones, many in southern Louisiana were forced to deal with the after effects of Hurricane Ida. For many, they had no where to turn for assistance. For Drew Brees, this was unacceptable.
Shortly after retiring, Drew Brees announced his partnership with Lowe’s, the Official Home Improvement Retail Sponsor of the NFL, to become the face of the Lowe’s “Home Team” project. The purpose of the Lowe’s “Home Team” project is to:
[M]ake an impact in their own “home” market by surprising local individuals or organizations who represent the cultural fabric of the community with needed project support. Homes represent the belonging, community and team pride that have been bringing NFL fans together every season, and this year, the Lowe’s “Home Team” will help strengthen those connections through virtual fan engagements and unexpected season-long initiatives to help fans feel more connected than ever from home.
For Drew Brees, his home is New Orleans, and he’s still doing his part to help those in the community.
It’s one thing for a celebrity of Drew Brees’s stature to put his name behind something, or for an individual with Drew Brees’s net worth to make a large donation, but it says something even more about the man of Drew Brees when he is personally willing to roll up his sleeves and get to work in New Orleans. And that’s exactly what Drew Brees continues to do.
Brees, through the Lowe’s “Home Town” Project, took a moment away from his new role as a football analyst for CBS and instead returned to New Orleans for some hard manual labor late last month.
With the assistance of volunteers from Lowe’s, Drew Brees helped make repairs to businesses that were affected by Hurricane Ida in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, the same area that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina 16 years earlier.
“A lot of people don’t know the Lower Ninth Ward is still suffering from Katrina, let alone all the other hurricanes and Covid 19,” said Burnell Cotlon, a life-long New Orleanean.
When Hurricane Katrina left the Lower Ninth Ward without a local grocery store, Burnell spent his entire life savings to open Burnell’s Lower 9th Ward Market, which remains the only grocery store in the Lower Ninth Ward. Cotlon recognized, “You shouldn’t have to catch three buses to get a galloon of milk.”
“This was my home. And my home was suffering. And when your home is suffering, you’re supposed to do something about it.” That’s what Burnell Cotlon said about his decision to add a laundromat to his grocery store last year.
But Cotlon wasn’t done yet.
In addition to a grocery store, barber shop, and laundromat, Cotlon recognized another need in his community when he found a young girl sitting behind his store on a laptop. Cotlon explained, “She came over here to do her homework cause she said her mom had to turn her internet off.”
And that’s where Cotlon, Lowe’s, and Drew Brees were able to come together.
Cotlon bought the building directly behind his grocery store, and a former Super Bowl MVP showed up to help get it up and running.
Mr. Drew Brees came to my store 2day! Lower 9thward STRONG! pic.twitter.com/NPQfjsDXqL— Burnell Cotlon (@BCotlon) September 28, 2021
Drew Brees, along with volunteers from Lowe’s and around the community, help paint the exterior of Burnell’s Internet Cafe, and also made other improvements nearby, including building a fence around the perimeter of the businesses in the area.
“There’s definitely a strength, spirit, belief and faith that you feel when you talk to Mr. Burnell,” said the future Hall of Famer. “This structure behind [the grocery store] was an empty structure with no roof not too long ago and because of Mr. Burnell’s hard work and Lowe’s commitment, it’s going to be an internet café very soon that’s going to provide free internet access to the community so kids can come here and be able to do their homework.”
When asked what went into making his dreams of the grocery store a reality, Cotlon answered, “A whole lot of blood, a whole lot of sweat, and my entire life savings, but I would do this all over again.” He recognizes, “This is the only [grocery store]. This is it. There’s nothing else around. That’s why it’s so important for me not to quit.”
Brees knows that a single day of painting and remodeling won’t restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Ida. “It’s the hope that you’re able to shed light on the challenges that people face here and that others will come, lend a helping hand and understand that this is an important community,” Brees explained. “And we need to do everything to help this community thrive.”
Cotlon recognizes the effort and the difference that Drew Brees and Lowe’s are making. “From the bottom of my heart thank you because it’s my community, I know it’s not everybody else’s community for them to take time out their lives to help me with my community means a lot to me.”
Drew Brees might be done playing football as a member of the New Orleans Saints, but he hasn’t stopped being a member of the New Orleans community.
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