December 29, 2008 12:00 PM

As Gloria Guy sat down for Thanksgiving dinner last month, her new house was packed wall-to-wall with family—her three children and 16 grandchildren. While her guests gave thanks for the five turkeys and four pies Guy cooked, Guy, 69, was simply grateful they were all together under one roof for the first time in more than three years. “I was so glad to see my family,” she says. “I hadn’t seen them in such a long time.”

Thanks to Brad Pitt and his Make It Right foundation, Guy and her kin are the first New Orleans family to have moved into a brand-new eco-friendly home in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “I can feel a real sense of pride,” says Pitt, whose nonprofit group has built six of the houses—complete with solar electricity panels and water-recycling systems—and plans to finish 100 more next year.

Guy, who lived in the Lower Ninth, barely escaped Katrina with her life. “My whole house went down the river,” she says. “I lost everything.” She waited nine hours on a neighbor’s roof for rescue. She resettled in Georgia but kept looking for a way to get back to her home city—and found one in Make It Right, which Pitt started in 2007 to help Lower Ninth residents return. On Sept. 12, she, her son Antonio, 40, his wife, Latasha, 30, and six of Guy’s grandchildren moved into their new four-bedroom house, paid for with an affordable-housing mortgage and subsidies from Make It Right. “I was so happy,” says Guy, who got a visit from Pitt earlier this month. “I wanted to return to New Orleans because all of my memories are here.”

Pitt says he’s thrilled the project has begun to pay off. “All we did was bring in good minds to help solve problems,” he says. “These people fought to make it back. This is theirs.”

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