Opening the Lower 9th laundry was Burnell Cotlon's best birthday present for mom Lillie. He cut the ribbon on the new store Thursday to a hearty round of applause.
"To have the knowledge that my son has finally achieved one of his goals, which is to bring as much help to the community as possible," Lillie Cotlon said with pride.
"Excuse me if I get emotional, because this is my home, this is my home," Burnell said.
Robert Green became the first customer.
"I am really proud to be able to be the first customer, but it was also needed, because I needed to wash those clothes," Green
"People have been coming every day, can I wash my clothes, can I wash my clothes?" Cotlon added.
The Army veteran has spent years, and his savings turning the flood-ruined building into a barber shop, snowball stand, grocery, and now a laundry.
"It is a business, but do I want to make some profits one day, of course," Cotlon explained. "At the end of the day it is still a business. But I didn't do it for the money, I did it because there was such a need."
"He is what a lot of people used to be, someone who said I'm going to do it myself," said District E City Councilman James Gray.
Eleven years after Katrina, the Lower 9th Ward remains the most challenged neighborhood in the entire city. Where change is slow, but it is happening. There's a new school, new businesses, new homes, streets are being repaired.
"In February we are going to put out every lot owned by NORA to developers," Gray said.
In the meantime Burnell is repairing his next business, replacing flood-damaged wood whenever he gets funds for new lumber. He's listening to community requests for what kind of business to make it.
"Either a child care facility or the Internet cafe," he said. "A lot of kids are coming up and asking me now for a Chuck E Cheese."
You can visit his Go Fund Me link at https:www.gofundme.com/Lower9thWard.
(© 2016 WWL)