Making New Orleans "Better"

Rock band Better Than Ezra is pictured with one of the 2008 Foundation recipients, Tom Darden from Brad Pitt's Make It Right foundation. Pictured from left to right, Travis McNabb, Tom Drummond, Tom Darden and Kevin Griffin.
Blair Hollyfield
A year ago the rock band Better Than Ezra helped an injured firefighter rebuild his Hurricane Katrina-ravaged home by buying new furniture and appliances to replace those destroyed in the 2005 storm's flooding.

This year, the band is making a donation to the city's fire department for new equipment, and it's donating to other groups working to rebuild the city, among them Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation.

In all, five donations totaling $100,000 were to be announced by the Better Than Ezra Foundation at a news conference Tuesday in New Orleans, where the band and its foundation are based.


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"This is the biggest thing the foundation has ever done, as far as money goes," said Tom Drummond, bassist for the band that became well-known in the 1990s for such hits as "Good," "In the Blood" and "Desperately Wanting."

Drummond said the foundation, through an annual golf tournament and auction, has raised more than $500,000 over the past seven years.

Since Katrina, giving back takes on a whole new meaning, he said, particularly when it comes to the city's firefighters.


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"They were the first responders and are still on the job," he said. "The (recovery) money has been so slow and they have been working in deplorable conditions. They deserve a whole lot more credit than they get."

2Drummond said the band thought long and hard about what projects to support. They, along with foundation board members, ultimately decided to help Make It Right by purchasing windows, doors and other construction materials to build affordable homes for Katrina victims.

They are also giving money to Restore or Retreat, a nonprofit coastal advocacy group that distributes educational material about coastal erosion and wetlands preservation efforts, and Louisiana ArtWorks, a program that provides educational services for children to learn about art and culture.

"Everything starts with education, and the more things like that we can get back up and running, the better," Drummond said.

The band is also giving 100 underprivileged children in the New Orleans area tickets to attend New Orleans Voodoo arena football games. Transportation will be included, Drummond said.

As for Better Than Ezra, the band continues to tour and make recordings, but for the first time in its roughly 20 year existence all three band members are not living in the same city.

Kevin Griffin, a Monroe native who formed the band in 1987 while in college at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles in 2006. Drummond and the band's drummer Travis McNabb still live in New Orleans.

By Stacey Plaisance