It has been a very good year at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.

For that, you need look no further than the Executive Director, William Stoudt.

Since last December, YRNO has been honored by the NOCDC as an Outstanding Citizen Diplomat and by USA Today as one of the 10 best family volunteer vacations.  The organization has won grants from BCM, the Starbucks Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Brown Foundation and the Edward Wisner Donation.  Most importantly, two completely renovated homes have been sold, with two more soon to follow.

And on a personal note, William married his longtime sweetheart, the former Danielle Chauvin.

The twin terrors grow up

William (or Bill or Will) Stoudt comes from a family of four brothers, the youngest by a few minutes following his identical twin Patrick.  “We grew up in the alleys of Lakeview running the streets with bare feet,” says Patrick, and to this day William goes barefoot in the YRNO office.  “I guess for him, he feels at home there, so he feels that he’s allowed to take off his shoes.”

The boys were basically holy terrors as kids. “We were quite a handful when we were younger,” Patrick continues.  “We went through babysitters.  Once a babysitter came one time, they would never go back.  We locked a babysitter in a bathroom one time with a chair against the door and it had no windows.”  Eventually, their mother found a babysitter who kept them calm by bringing movies.  Television never worked because the brothers would start fighting during commercials.  Despite being a twin, William was always treated as the youngest and whatever came along with it, including the harassment.

Hurricane Katrina made them grow up fast.  “I’ve said that I grew up on August 29th, 2005, because before it was really easy to be a kid and after it wasn’t,” says William.  “We had a lot more responsibility to not just our family but our classmates, our teachers, the community.” Patrick says he and William had been “smart asses” at Jesuit High School, taking advantage of going to school where their older brothers already had, pushing things too far (e.g. ordering pizzas delivered to a classroom) because they could, until “the timing of the storm kind of flipped everything so we became not necessarily smart asses anymore, but smart, young, driven individuals.”

So now when the 25-year-old William sometimes refers to himself as a 40-year-old man, Patrick gets it.  “I think that both William and I are old souls.  When we were very young we were very immature.”  Then came the catastrophe.  “We were no longer those immature little punk kids.”

After spending the first four months after the storm in Houston, the twins came back to New Orleans and wanted to get involved in the recovery.  Their family home had flooded, but they were in relatively good shape and realized there were a lot of people who needed a lot of help.  In the announcements at Jesuit, they learned of a service day where anyone could come, and that first time they were just among the regular volunteers gutting a house.  But William discovered he was pretty good at gutting and had a little construction experience, so he filled a void by taking charge and giving people instructions, his first leadership experience.

Another Jesuit student named Wade Trosclair read an article about a teacher at Archbishop Rummel High School who said it should be youth rebuilding New Orleans, so that’s where the name came from—a quote from current YRNO board president Bob Whitman.  Trosclair contacted Whitman and told him that Jesuit students were doing the same kind of recovery work Rummel students were and that they should try to get more schools working together.  The Stoudt boys went with Trosclair to meet Whitman and started meeting kids at other schools, making bylaws, creating a youth council, recruiting even more schools and planning service days, thinking about ways they could help whole neighborhoods, not just one house at a time.

Things grew quickly in that first year after Katrina, with 20 chapters at 20 schools and 400 students showing up at one of the service days.  Some chapter representatives were more active than others, but between 10 and 15 met weekly or bi-weekly and they were the ones making decisions on what groups were doing individually or in concert.

“I definitely go out of my way to say I didn’t start Youth Rebuilding New Orleans,” says William.  “I was just there in the beginning.”

That said, he would prove to be the most committed.  After that first year, the numbers began to shrink, as students prioritized extracurricular activities or graduated and went off to college.

Eventually, William would be the last of the originals still standing.

Cutie pie(s)

In the spring of 2006, William met his future wife.  Danielle Chauvin attended Ursuline Academy, and they were set up on a blind date to attend her junior prom.  Identical twin Patrick was there too.  “There were two of them when I met them and one had two buttons showing and one had three buttons showing, and that’s how we told them apart the whole night,”  Danielle recalls, William being the one with three buttons.  “He tried to dance, so I appreciated that.

“The girl that set us up, her younger sister would always talk about them, about how cute they were and how they were cutting their grass and she would look outside and be like, ‘oh, hey, look at these cute guys.’”

She too thought he was cute, joking that he was a little thinner back then, but she had another initial impression as well.

“Same height as me.”

Is that to say she was looking for taller?

“Well yeah, of course!”

William had been concerned about the height thing too.  Before the date, he checked out a photo on Danielle’s MySpace page, and seeing she was pretty tall, had to ask a friend to find out the specifics.  “I vividly remember the picture of her in these giant sunglasses, blonde hair on Rodeo Drive,” he says.  “At first the answer was, I’m not gonna get set up, I don’t want to deal with that, and then the picture, and I was like, OK, yeah.”

That summer, William would begin another long-term partnership.  Connie Uddo lived down the street in Lakeview and after learning of the brothers’ work at YRNO, she partnered with them on projects, ultimately hiring them to paid supervisory positions at her own recovery center, seeing that they were very committed and responsible, as well as great with volunteers.

That’s not to suggest they were perfect.

“It was a little hard getting them out of bed in the morning,” Uddo says, remembering calls to their mother for help.  “They would come rolling up, slowly walking in looking like they literally did just roll out of bed.  They never brushed their hair.  They just threw on a T-shirt, walking in my center half asleep, but they kicked into gear pretty quick and then they’d go out with volunteers and they just proved great leadership.”

The brothers have a fairly simple explanation for why they arrived in their state of lethargy: they worked for Uddo in the morning, cut grass in the afternoon and then worked at a restaurant at night.  “And then after that we still made time to go out with friends,” says William.

“We lived really close to the office, which was great, so that we could literally roll out of bed and be there in five minutes, but as soon as the groups arrived the switch would go on and it would go from sleeping on the couch to getting the group enthused and energized and really working hard.”

“We knew exactly how long it took us to get things done, so while she wanted us there a little early, we knew what time we could get there and still get it done,” adds Patrick.

“There was never a time we weren’t ready for a group,” William claims.  “We definitely scared her a couple of times, but we were ready to go.”

Also, both twins sleep walk and talk, causing extra fatigue, so Patrick says neither one of them have ever been morning people.  (Patrick’s fiancée Brittany Davis says, “That’s putting it nicely.”)  “We get to where we need to on time, but we may not be mentally alert first thing in the morning.”

It has apparently never scared off the ladies, though.  Uddo still remembers the swooning volunteers.  “All the little girls just fell in love with them and they had girlfriends from every state imaginable, every denomination imaginable because they were so cute and fun,” she says.

William recalls it too.  “At the time, I was in pretty peak physical shape, playing lacrosse, working outside, I remember being very tan and we were supervising high school girls and boys, so there were definitely some girls that would ask questions that they know the answer to or find excuses to come up and talk to us.  I think the novelty of it at first was fine, but after a couple of groups and a couple of weeks of doing it, it was like, OK, you’re gonna be gone tomorrow.”

Separate paths

By 2007, Patrick would be gone too.  He left for Baton Rouge to attend college at LSU.  William, however, elected to stay in New Orleans and attend Tulane.

“I chose Tulane for a couple of different reasons,” he says.  “One was that I wanted to stay in New Orleans and I wanted to stay involved.  I didn’t know if that meant staying involved with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans at the time, but I did know that there was a lot of work that I still felt like I could help with and still give back.  For a long time, I always felt like—and I try to avoid saying that I had a calling because I’m not an overtly religious person; I don’t think there’s somebody preaching to me that I’m special—but I felt like I had been given certain gifts, certain abilities to do this type of work.”

Uddo became even more impressed.  “The fact that William stuck with it really said a lot to me about his character and his passion for New Orleans,” she says, comparing him to other kids who were pretty much done with recovery work once they went to college.

“He had a very responsible side to him and he took the recovery very seriously—more than just like, ‘I’m a volunteer, I have to do my community service hours.’  I saw that passion that I didn’t see in other kids for taking it the distance.”

More than nine years after Katrina, they’re still partners, with the aforementioned GNOF grant designated to Project Supporting Seniors, a joint project between YRNO and St. Paul’s Senior Center, which Uddo now runs.  “That’s to me what non-profits should do together—help each other, support each other, not be in competition, and I never once felt that from William.”

The Tulane years

William was a Community Service Scholar at Tulane, which meant he was overseen and advised by the school’s Center for Public Service.  That’s where he met Avery Brewton, who was then just starting her job at CPS.  With all the experience he had at YRNO, her first impression was that he might be difficult to work with.

“Even at such a young age, he knew how to do it better than a lot of people; he was not shy at all about sharing his opinion,” Brewton recalls, before adding that her fear was unfounded.  “Even though he was very sarcastic and could be very critical and stubborn and obnoxious and all those things, he had a good heart and he had a commitment to doing things well.  He knew how to show up, which I learned to respect very quickly.”

Soon enough, William started working with SAFER (Student Advocacy for Equitable Recovery), where Jim Coningsby was his CSS mentor.  William describes the organization as “almost kind of the on-campus version of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.”  During his freshman and sophomore years in particular, he was more actively involved with SAFER than YRNO, gutting, supervising and recruiting.  Still, he was on the YRNO board and occasionally worked on their projects.

Coningsby was a fellow Tulane student who had helped start SAFER.  “Jim and I were pretty much a perfect pairing,” says William.  “We had similar temperaments, similar beliefs and really were passionate about rebuilding.”

Brewton remembers the similarities too.  “I paired them together because they both were sarcastic, very funny people and had similar work ethic,” she says.  “They both worked so hard.  They’d do things you don’t even know are being done, you just know things worked smoother when they’re around.  They take care of things without being asked, took initiative about things in a way that was beyond whatever the minimum requirements were.  I knew that I could rely on his opinion, his judgment, because he had the best interests of the program first.”

Still in the rebuilding business today at Project Homecoming, Coningsby recalls William being much more experienced with community service than the typical freshman who had done things like canned food drives in high school.  “Will had started a real organization and was really mobilizing volunteers to gut houses, so he and I had a lot in common,” he says.

His mentee was also much more committed.  “Not to degrade what Tulane was trying to do, but basically they were giving either half scholarships or full scholarships and asking people to do 20 hours of community service a semester—and Will was doing that a week without really any benefit to himself,” Coningsby adds.

“I never had experience of him nickel and diming like other students would—a bare minimum attitude,” Brewton says.  “Will had always been above and beyond.  We definitely got along because of his work ethic.”

Additionally, she remembers him being “very resourceful,” taking advantage of opportunities that seemed unrelated to her, but he knew what he was looking for as if putting together a toolkit.

Compliments aside, the pairing of William with Coningsby was not all sunshine and balloons.  Brewton called it a “double-edged sword” because there were times they needed to be kept under wraps.  She remembers a beer pong fundraiser for SAFER that ended up in the Hullabaloo and them commandeering university vehicles.

But according to both accused parties, Coningsby was more involved in the trouble.  “I was able to support him in some of those things, but keep my hands clean,” says William. “He’s not quite the rule breaker that I’ve been,” says Coningsby.  “He did a really good job of not participating in some of the shenanigans.”

Another fan of William’s at CPS was Vincent Ilustre, the center’s founding Executive Director.  “He was one of those quiet leaders that brought people to his organization, but as a student, you didn’t see him showboat,” Ilustre says, referring to his work at YRNO.  “You wouldn’t know that William was someone special, that he started this organization, that he did all this work.

“He was really humble and his heart was in the right place.  To him, it wasn’t anything about gaining popularity or notoriety because he started this program, it was more because he really cared about it and he really appreciated it.”

Ilustre saw a can-do attitude, perseverance, hard work and passion as William’s best attributes.  “Those sort of things that typically you would want for someone that starts a non-profit.

“Students really connected with him because he was able to explain to them what they’re doing and how that supports the community.

“He wasn’t like an adult telling them what to do, he was one of them,” Ilustre concludes, noting the ultimate benefit to YRNO.  “The organization became one of our go-to partners as a direct result of that.”

The present day

After graduating from the Tulane business school in 2011, William promptly moved from his unpaid position on the YRNO board to his current job as Executive Director, but Coningsby remembers it being less than an easy decision.  “He had a lot of apprehension about paying himself a salary as Executive Director and I was like, ‘Is there anyone else who can take that role?’  And the answer is really no.  Certainly there are some people on his board that are committed, but Will’s really the driving force behind that organization and the reason why any of it has happened.  I thought it was a logical conclusion that he would just continue to spend more time on it and ultimately codify the leadership role that he had already been playing.”

William was YRNO’s first full-time paid staff member.  He admits he was and to some degree still is uncomfortable drawing a salary from the organization, and never asked for a raise until this year.  “You realize especially when you’re the one doing the books, asking for the money and getting the grants that every dollar you spend on yourself could be spent on something else,” he says.  “There was a time when I didn’t cash my paychecks for six months, because it was more important to me that the organization was financially sustainable and in place than it was for my own personal self.”

He has more than proved his worth.  Under William, YRNO has gone from a loosely organized band of students helping people get back in their homes after Katrina to an education focused multi-program non-profit with paid staff, plus AmeriCorps members.  Those programs include Project HOMEwork, in which houses are bought, rehabilitated and sold to teachers at affordable (below market value) prices, REbuild, which employs local youth and allows them to attend school while they learn the construction trade, the Future Leaders Initiative, which embeds Youth Engagement Coordinators in New Orleans high schools to teach students soft skills such as interviewing, résumé writing and public speaking, and the Free Enterprise Leadership Team, in which high school students learn about real estate development, finance and project management while overseeing the purchase, renovation and sale of a home that can earn them scholarship money.

Brewton is not surprised William is in a leadership position today, recalling his disposition at Tulane.  “He was bossy, so I knew he was gonna be somebody’s boss.  I would just joke and say that he’s spicy.”

William responds, “I can definitely be spicy if you want to put it that way, but I don’t think that I sought to be someone’s boss.  I just knew that I probably didn’t want to be someone’s employee and that’s kind of how it ends up.”

After thinking about it some more, he decides to expound further on the subject.  “I’m a terrible backseat driver,” he admits.  “I’m critical and when I think I can do something better, then that’s the boss in me that says this is the better way to do it.

“I could never join the military because I can’t just take orders to take orders.”

Patrick may be the closest thing to William’s boss.  Although he’s no longer involved with YRNO in any official capacity, he still serves as a sounding board.

“I’m the devil’s advocate when he has an idea,” says Patrick of his brother.  “I want him to have to prove it to me, because he gets these ideas and he’s like, ‘this is gonna work; we’re gonna do this.’  And my mentality is I don’t want him to go out and screw something up, so I’m gonna poke holes in everything he’s got.  That’s kind of the role I’ve moved into.”

Or maybe Danielle is William’s boss.  Regardless, as of last December, she’s his wife.  “She has always been the nicest person that I know, just absolutely not a mean bone in her body,” he says.  “She’s kind of a balance to me.”

Apparently, they’re becoming more alike though.  “I rubbed off on her a lot and she’s rubbed off on me a lot,” says William.  “They do say that opposites attract, although we’re very similar in some ways, but we’re very different in others.”

In addition to his duties at YRNO, William is also a commissioner with Volunteer Louisiana.  Ilustre nominated him for the position when a young commissioner was needed to serve as a role model to other young people.  “I think he’s a great ambassador not only from New Orleans to the state commission, but also for the young cohort that hopefully he’ll attract to do more service as a direct result of his work,” says Ilustre.

Recently, William was able to tell his story from high school onward at a UT Dallas student convocation.  The theme was “service matters,” which he loved.  “I would’ve gone and done it for free if they would pay to fly me there, but they actually paid me an honorarium, which was awesome,” he says.  “It was a great, unique experience and hopefully I get an opportunity to do that again.”

Foreseeing the future

Although the twins remain very similar to this day, both agree that the biggest difference between them is their leadership style.  “I think he prefers to lead from the front and be at the front public speaking, and I prefer to be behind the curtains,” says Patrick, now a Senior Manager at Federated Sample.  “I have no political aspirations.”

That last sentence brings up a topic that pretty much everyone knows about William.  He wants to run for office and ultimately be mayor, and he doesn’t care who knows it.  He’s been civically and politically minded his entire life.

“I was Boy Scout prior to Katrina, made it all the way to Eagle Scout and always had a passion for local politics,” he says.  “Even before Katrina, I would watch council meetings on channel 6.  Total political junkie, couldn’t get enough of it.”

He majored in political science at Tulane and is unabashed about his desire to hold office.  “The only answer I have in terms of why I want to do it is a very egotistical answer, and it’s the fact that I think I can do it better,” he says. At the heart of that belief is a desire to make New Orleans better, stronger and more resilient. “You can only do so much at the non-profit level and eventually I want to take that next step to help more people.”

At the same time, he has no interest in the billboards, interviews, etc. that come along with the job itself.  “I realize that it’s kind of silly because you can’t have one without the other.”

Coningsby sees the same dichotomy.  “Will’s an interesting case because I think his natural tendency is to be shy, but he’s gotten accustomed to being in the forefront in a leadership role,” he says.

“I’d rather do something well than talk about doing something well,” says William.  “It’s been an adjustment for sure when you are the face of an organization.”  Yet he remains resolute.  “I think I could cut through a lot of the political mess and make some systemic changes that have lasting impacts on the city of New Orleans,” he says.

“I always told him, ‘you’re going to end up in politics,’” says Uddo.  “I think he’s a perfect fit for city council member and I think he definitely has mayor potential.  I always tell him, I’m gonna be campaigning for you, William.’”

“I can totally see it,” Brewton says about a future with William as an elected official.  “I think he can be very diplomatic.  I loved how he knew how to bring people together.”

Former YRNO board member and current Program Manager Sam Stephens met William as a fellow student and Community Service Scholar at Tulane when the latter was president of their dorm, and he concurs.

“He was born to be a politician,” says Stephens.  “He just embodied it.  That was actually one of the first things I thought.  I said, you know what, this guy’s probably gonna hold office someday.  He’s so adamantly for the recovery of New Orleans.  He’s such a great spokesperson for the city and a great representative of it.”

Although Danielle doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, she otherwise seems fine with her husband’s political aspirations.  “I’ll support him, but I will not do any interviews, as I am not very good at them.  I will stand outside and hold signs for him,” she says, before looking right at him and reciting a social media hashtag she’s used herself.  “#BillStoudt2026, is that right?  It’s a joke, but sort of serious, I guess.”

Seeing red

To end this opus on a light note, William apparently likes to wear red.  As in he really, really, really likes to wear red to the point where you can barely see him in anything else.  Stephens and YRNO’s AmeriCorps VISTA Jack Styczynski constantly bust on him for wearing the same thing to work every day, especially his dull, time-worn red pants.  The Stoudt twins agree he does it for “branding.”

“I have one pair of red pants that I wash weekly and seven YRNO white polos,” says William.  “The two extra ones are in case I forget to do laundry.”

Stephens just laughs.  “We get enough laundry detergent donated, you’d think he could afford to wash his clothes, you know what I mean?”

When asked to recall more funny stuff about William, people have a tendency to bring up his proclivity for wearing another red article of clothing.

“Whenever I have funny Will encounters it’s usually because I’ll see him out doing a New Orleans thing the same way I am—we run into each other wearing red dresses,” says Coningsby, referring to the annual New Orleans Red Dress Run to benefit local charities.  “It will remind me that we both still know how to have fun.”

Whether it’s just fun or a matter of obsession for William may be a subject for debate, however.

“He’s really into it,” says Danielle.  “He gets so excited and has to find the perfect dress, because he can’t be seen in the same dress again.  This most recent one, we were looking for clothes for the pub crawl, and I found this pretty cute red dress and I held it up for him and he was like, ‘oh, let me try it on.’  And he tries it on and he was like, ‘look how well it flatters my shape,” and he loved it, so we got it.”

“Any Red Dress aficionado would tell you it’s a huge faux pas to wear the same dress more than one year in a row,” explains William.  “The smart attendees shop early and often at various thrift stores.  The last minute ones end up with some pretty heinous dresses.

“The Red Dress run is different, it’s for a good cause and it’s always a great time.

“It’s an opportunity to be a woman for the day.”