Monday, August 28, 2006

Katrina +1: volunteers still needed

Catholic Charities has been really short of volunteers to help gut flooded homes. It takes 10 people 2 or 3 days to gut a house, and during the late summer there were simply no volunteers for Catholic Charities. (I have read about other organizations or parishes from the north helping individuals, especially the elderly.) A lot of those in need of this help are poor, people whose only wealth was the deed to their family property. (One of those who benefited from volunteers gutting his house was an 83-year-old, who is rebuilding with his own hands so that his frail wife of 68 years can come home.)
Interested persons and groups can contact; volunteers can also call the Volunteer Coordinators of Catholic Charities:
New Orleans 504-310-6960
Biloxi 228-234-3901
Jackson 601-326-3758

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A year later, the devastation from Hurricane Katrina continues to bedevil New Orleans and surrounding communities.

For a small group of volunteers from St. Anne’s parish in Littleton,Mass,the call to help was too loud to ignore, so a band of six traveled south last month for a week-long mission they won’t soon forget.

The four adults and two high school students stayed in a trailer supplied by Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Chalmette, La. And spent their days landscaping and rebuilding the exterior of the church.

Fifteen-year-old Devin Rhodes said the church is the only one left functioning in that county, of any denomination, so not only is it the local church, it is also the community center and funeral home (since the funeral home was destroyed).

Devin said he wanted parishioners to " have one nice place to go," said his mother, Debbie.

"We did whatever they needed doing," said Devin. "We ended up working mostly outside on the landscaping."

He said the old trees were uprooted in the flood following the hurricane, so the terrain looks completely different than it did before Katrina hit a year ago. But he said there are no jobs anymore because Chalmette has been slow to rebuild.

"It’s still pretty devastated," said Devin. "People have to drive 20 to 25 miles to find a grocery store or any other store because all the businesses were destroyed." He said the roadside is marked by felled, rotting trees and decayed vegetation after the salt water of the Gulf sloshed in and covered the low-lying area.

He said FEMA is rebuilding what was there, but very slowly, too slowly for residents to find jobs. According to Debbie, Devin is also bothered that the large corporate facilities "are just left standing with roofs and windows gone, vines growing out of the buildings and abandoned cars in their lots."

"He felt that those corporations could afford to at least remove the debris even if they weren’t going to reopen the business because people should not have to look at that day after day," said Debbie.

Add to that, Devin said prices for food and building materials are higher than normal in the stores that are open.

"Most of the people of Chalmette are staying in trailers or hotels," said Devin, a sophomore at Littleton High School. "They are staying anywhere they can until their houses are rebuilt." He said some of the lush vegetation is back, "but not nearly as much."

The church provided the trailer for the group from St. Anne’s. Devin liked it because their trailer was in a park with other county emergency personnel.

"We were with the fire and police departments, and other business owners," he said. "We talked to them a lot at night."

He said one horrific story involved a man who lived with his mother and aunt, and when the flood hit Chalmette, the three went into the attic of the house. As the water rose, the man had to choose which of the family members to save and which to sacrifice since he could not swim to safety with both of them at the same time.

"He and his mom swam to higher ground," said Devin, "and he tied his mom to a tree so she could be rescued, and went back for his aunt, but by the time he got there, she was dead, so he duct-taped her license to her leg and tied her body to the roof so rescuers would know who she was."

Devin said the man and his mother survived.

"Many people died in their attics because it was so hot," said Devin. "And many in wood houses saw the house wash away."

But there were also positive developments, he said. He and his friend Mark Rooney, also a student at LHS, got to help the church secretaries set up their new computer system.

"Everybody was friendly and thankful we were there helping, and that felt good," said Devin. "They asked us what we thought and told us their stories.

As he reflected on his experience, Devin said he expected the area to be further along in the rebuilding than it was.

"There are no jobs, no businesses," he said. "It’s terrible."

He said another trip is planned from Littleton to Louisiana next year.