Elizabeth “Liz” Creel
For nearly a century, the Junior League of New Orleans (JLNO) has been a fixture in the humanitarian landscape of the Crescent City. Women with a desire to share their time and talents to improve their community have chosen JLNO as the vessel to pour themselves into – one that gives back ten-fold to the people it serves. This description is embodied by our Sustainer of the Year, Liz Creel.
Liz has been the proprietor of the Park View Historic Hotel for fourteen years. She has a bright smile and offers hugs of welcome. As soon as you walk inside the front doors of this charming bed and breakfast on St. Charles Avenue, you see a quaint room to the right adorned with a beautiful bar. Liz states with some amusement, “Some people had COVID babies; I had a COVID bar. We got our license in June, and it’s one of my favorite rooms in the house.” The name of the bar is the Gilded Perch, where her bartenders enjoy crafting cocktails, many of which use ingredients sourced from their farm. Behind the bar and over the mirror is a beautiful peacock named Kipling who once lived on her farm where she and her husband breed peacocks.
An ornate mural on the wall is made to look like the front porch looking out onto Audubon Park. Liz explained how the artist put in several “Easter eggs” if you look closely. “There are Sacred Heart cardinals, because I went to Sacred Heart; and honeybees because my husband and I are beekeepers. I have pet camels on my farm, so there is a camel in the distance. And this is Ida – the cat that showed up during Hurricane Ida – who we feed and take care of. It really just tells a story.” There’s even a carved heart in a tree with the initials “T + L” – an homage to Liz and her husband, Terry.
Seated in the hotel’s parlor, Liz recounts her experience during her years in Junior League. She joined in 1991 when she was a newlywed – before she had her four sons. “At that time, it was just something we all did. So I joined out of a sense of duty, and over time I came to just love it.” She felt fulfilled by developing deeper relationships with her fellow League members and loved learning from a group of such extraordinarily intelligent women.
Liz admits when she became JLNO President, she was nervous walking into the auditorium. She made it a habit to find someone who was standing alone. She would begin talking with them and bring other people into the conversation. She admits, “That skill which was born out of my own discomfort has served me in every capacity. It’s what I do running a hotel. It’s what I do in fundraising. I make people feel welcome and comfortable.”
She speaks passionately about a historic property she and her husband purchased outside of Jeanerette on Bayou Teche named Albania Mansion. They first found the property twenty years ago, but it was purchased by an artist from New York named Hunt Slonem, who saved the property and stabilized it. The land came on the market again after COVID started winding down, so they bought it. The passion in her voice when she speaks about the surrounding community and their efforts at promoting racial reconciliation is captivating.
“A year later, we find ourselves at the very epicenter of hope and potential. This family of Creoles of Color and their White cousins have come together as a unified group to show their support for racial reconciliation and town renewal. We invited this group to come together, because we feel that owning this complicated property requires us to help solve some of the challenges the surrounding community faces.” Upon reflection, she states, “Of all the things I’ve ever done, this is quite a remarkable experience. I’ve learned that we must talk, we must listen, and we must be open. The possibilities the world will bring to you if you are open to dialogue are unbelievable.”
Liz is highly invested in her church Parish. Not only do she and her husband help prepare couples for marriage in the Catholic faith, but she is also helping to lead the Capital Campaign for the Holy Name of Jesus. She has volunteered over the years with Boys Hope Girls Hope in a variety of ways from helping to fundraise to welcoming the kids into their home annually to see the Muses Parade, and she has helped raise funds for Café Reconcile. She believes her most important community service is her involvement in the racial reconciliation in Bayou Teche. Her training in the League has helped her become a servant leader, and she strongly believes we are led to where we are supposed to be.
When asked why the Junior League was important to our community, she doesn’t hesitate. “We train women volunteers to become leaders – whether they are on a nonprofit board or in a corporate boardroom. And the training is second to none. You can always tell when you are meeting someone who’s been trained by the Junior League.”
Liz takes extreme pride in the fact that the Junior League of New Orleans has reached its 99th year. After Hurricane Katrina, Anne Dalton with the Association of Junior Leagues International told her the most important job was to ensure the survival of JLNO. And that’s what the Board of Directors did. They set about ensuring the Junior League of New Orleans would still be here for their 99th anniversary. Liz says, “I am so grateful my board and I played a role in making sure we would still be here to mark this celebration.”
As a Sustainer, she expresses how much she loves being part of the Sustainer’s Garden Club. “I did not think I would ever be in a Sustainer club, but I love spending time with these women. I love that – after all the work associated with your active years – there’s still this great opportunity to really have fun and learn things together.”
Liz believes it is critically important for JLNO to continue bringing women together through training and voluntarism. She speaks directly to the variety of opportunities offered to League members, any one of which could prove to have life-changing impacts. She admits some of her fondest memories were made simply by folding clothes at Bloomin’ Deals Thrift Shop with a fellow provisional – a woman who ended up becoming one of her closest friends.
One of the most impactful moments she experienced during her time in JLNO was standing up at the Annual Conference after Hurricane Katrina and inviting the entire membership to come to New Orleans to help with a rebuilding project. She said, “Wendy Barron and Ellen Coleman, my two immediate predecessors and mentors, came on board and the three of us co-chaired the League’s Rebuilding New Orleans Project. It was such an extraordinary experience.”
Liz is grateful for the lessons she learned and the opportunities that have come her way due to her involvement in the Junior League of New Orleans. She is always willing to answer that phone call, text, or email that says, “Liz, would you be willing to…”. It’s that everlasting willingness to serve along with her convivial personality that makes The Junior League of New Orleans proud to call Liz Creel our Sustainer of the Year.