Yesterday, most Americans probably celebrated Thanksgiving in a traditional way – with family dinners, football games, and all-American delicacies like turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and the like. I was certainly one of them, spending much of the day at my father’s house, gabbing with relatives, scarfing down yummy, non-diet foods, giving thanks for the people in my life, and dreading the possibility of Black Friday crowds at stores and shopping malls around the city.
But Thanksgiving also signifies the start of the holiday season: a five-week period that officially ends with New Year’s Day. Traditionally, this is a charitable time of the year, when many Americans devote their money and energy to worthy causes across the country. Although the current recession might inevitably curtail charitable giving this season, I hope that people will still consider donating a small amount (of their time and budget) to non-profit organizations that benefit everything from the homeless to the environment.
As a New Orleans native and part-time resident, I have a particular fondness for organizations that strive to restore and preserve southeastern Louisiana’s unique ecology. After decades of negative impacts from levee building along the Mississippi River, oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, and numerous storms like Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Gulf Coast has suffered a great deal of habitat loss. The depletion is in fact alarming.
My father, an avid fisherman, has shown me a variety of aerial maps that illustrate how much the topography has changed over the past fifty years. So much of the marshland has disappeared that even I’ve noticed a difference since the fishing trips of my youth. There’s certainly more open water than there used to be – a fact that contributed to Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans in August 2005. Without the wetlands of old, there was little to hinder the hurricane’s momentum.
So, if you’re looking for a worthy cause to support this holiday season, consider the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation  (P.O. Box 6965, Metairie, LA 70009, 504/836-2215), a non-profit organization that is dedicated to restoring and preserving the coast, habitats, and water quality of the entire Lake Pontchartrain Basin, a 10,000-square-mile watershed comprising 16 Louisiana parishes. This region, one of the largest estuarine systems in the Gulf of Mexico, contains both rural areas – from rolling woodlands in the north to coastal marshes in the south – as well as urban locales like New Orleans, Louisiana’s most infamous city, and Baton Rouge, the state capital – not to mention Lake Pontchartrain itself. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation uses a variety of endeavors, including restoration activities, advocacy efforts, and educational programs, to reclaim this one-of-a-kind region – which boasts everything from plantations  to the French Quarter  to bountiful fishing grounds – for future generations.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.