In the days following Hurricane Katrina's headlong collision with New Orleans, first responders—police officers, firefighters, and ambulance crews—worked nonstop to protect as many people and as much property as possible amid the chaos. However, as the levees were breached, most of their homes were severely damaged; a city mandate required all first responders to live within the city limits, forcing many to live in the working-class neighborhoods that were the worst hit.

So, Atlanta-based John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods created a program called High Five for New Orleans in an effort to raise $1 million to help the New Orleans Police Foundation rebuild homes for its members. The builder, along with its affiliated companies, employees, and trade partners, will construct and sell five homes in five cities across the Southeast—Atlanta.; Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Nashville, Tenn. The kickoff event occurred in Atlanta on March 3. In addition, the builder broke ground on the homes in Charlotte and Raleigh and expects to turn dirt in Charleston and Nashville by month's close.

Chairman and chief creative officer John Wieland says the money raised will not just be donated to the foundation; it will be used to fund a short-term building supply company to benefit the foundation's members. “Since there was little construction in the area before, they don't really have a building supply infrastructure except Lowe's and Home Depot,” Wieland explains. “And those resources are pretty taxed.”

HELPING OUT: At the Atlanta-area groundbreaking were, from left: James Huffman, JWH+N; David Chatham of Chatham Holdings; Karissa George of JWH+N; JWH+N CEO Terry Russell; Canton Councilmember Wally Fowler; Canton Councilmember Jo Ellen Wilson; City Manager Bill Werner; JWH+N's Allen Davis; and John Weiland, JWH+N. The idea is that the builder's suppliers will deliver much-needed materials such as insulation, doors, and paint to a rented warehouse in the New Orleans area. The builder will then distribute the products to the police officers not at retail price but at the price secured through local and regional contracts. Moreover, Wieland says the company may end up subsidizing an electrical company to provide fair prices for services.

Wieland says by leveraging every side of the equation—from trades to city governments—charitable works can have a multiplied effect. “We don't want to help 10 people for $100,000 [apiece]; we want to help 60 people for $1,500 [apiece].”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: New Orleans, LA.