A lifelong volunteer, Susan Hess used her talents as a fundraiser to help the Louisiana SPCA, City Park, and other organizations mobilize after Hurricane Katrina. Born Susan Okun, Hess came to New Orleans as a young bride three days before Hurricane Betsy in 1965. The collective experience made her part of the community from the start, and her own experience of volunteering to help with cleanup and recovery efforts marked the beginning of a lifetime of serving the New Orleans community in a variety of roles, fundraising for the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Federation, the University of New Orleans, the Louisiana SPCA, City Park, and other local and national organizations. Over time she served as vice president of NCJW, president of the Louisiana SPCA, and founding president of the Louisiana Nature and Science Center. After Hurricane Katrina, Hess raised funds for the Louisiana SPCA and City Park and served on the boards of both organizations, helping them respond to the storm's devastation. She later served as president of the Louisiana SPCA and, in December 2014, became president of the City Park board.
Susan Hess talks about her family background, childhood, and how she came to New Orleans as a young bride three days before Hurricane Betsy in 1965. She says the experience made her feel like part of the community as she volunteered to help with cleanup and recovery efforts. Susan divorced her first husband and married Bill Hess, the grandson of a prominent Southern Jewish family of the pre-civil rights era, Edith and Edgar Stern. Edith's father, Julius Rosenwald, was a founder of Sears and Roebuck and founder of the Rosenwald schools. She discusses their journey from Southern non-observant Jews to more observant Judaism. Susan, Bill, and their four dogs stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and weathered the storm. Susan and Bill were stuck in Metairie when the levees broke, unable to reach their flooded cars or leave the city. They were able to get out on a moving truck hired by their neighbor, actor John Goodman. Through the help of some good samaritans and friends along the way, they were given shelter, evacuated, and flew to their second home in Telluride. After Katrina, when many evacuees were forced to abandon their pets, and the city's public spaces were destroyed, Hess raised funds for the Louisiana SPCA and the City Park and served on the boards of both organizations, helping them respond to the devastation of the storm.