Students, staff, alumni continue Katrina relief efforts

Author: Shannon Chapla


Six weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast,more than three dozen Notre Dame students will utilize their fall break (Oct. 16 to 22) as a first opportunity to directly help some of the many affected by the disaster.

Three groups will head forBiloxiandHattiesburg,Miss., to help with on-going construction, clean-up and organizational efforts.

Senior Jeff Mullin ofPittsburghis leading a group of 18 men from Stanford Hall to work alongside their former residence assistant, who currently is teaching in Notre DamesAlliancefor Catholic Education (ACE) Program atResurrectionHigh SchoolinBiloxi.(ACE prepares college graduates for teaching careers through a program that combines summer classroom study at Notre Dame with academic year student teaching experiences in Catholic schools throughout the country.)

The group will repair hurricane damage around the schools campus, including installing a new laminate floor, clearing brush and downed trees and painting the buildings exterior.When that work is completed, they will head out into the community and work on the homes of students from the school.

We all have felt a calling to sacrifice our fall break to go and try to help,Mullin said.If we only help a little we still will be making a difference in the lives of the victims of this disaster.We hope to expedite the children’s return to school and, in doing so, improve their education when they return.We wish to also show our support to the entire community which didnt receive the amount of public attention shown toNew Orleans.

Making a similar trek toHattiesburgis a group of eight organized by graduate student Rebecca Chimahusky ofOklahoma City.They will stay at theUniversityofSouthern Mississippi, where they will work alongside members of the universitys Catholic Student Association performing clean-up and distribution of donated goods in nearby towns.

Even though we will only be there for a few days, after a disaster like Katrina, these communities need as much help as they can get,Chimahusky said.I organized this trip because of my desire to do more than just donate money, which only goes so far.If you are able to give of yourself to those in desperate need, I feel it makes a deeper impact and has greater effect.Our desire is to simply help out in whatever ways we can, and we are thrilled just to have the opportunity to do so.

Both groups were funded by the Center for Social Concerns, Campus Ministry, the studentsrespective residence halls, and hosting organizations.

Four Notre Dame business offices have combined efforts to pack supplies into a semi-tractor-trailer truck that also will make its way next week to theBiloxiarea, where elementary and high school students taught by students in Notre Dames ACE program have lost one of their schools, along with furniture and supplies.

The cache of donated goods, from NDSurplus, the Office of Information Technologies, Building Services and the Universitys licensing department, includes linens and towels, DVD/VCR players, desks and other furniture, and hats and shirts.

The collaborative effort began as groups that had withstood Hurricane Katrina began sending out requests for the donation of surplus items. Tim Gibney, assistant vice president for procurement services, recommended that Notre Dame become involved, but that they help ACE schools.

It seemed like the perfect match,said Thomas Kessler, director of information technologies for the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, who is serving as liaison for the project.

Traveling, in part, to help unload the huge truckload of supplies are 16 undergraduates and four staff members from the ACE program.They will help rewire buildings, build tables and bookshelves and also will meet with Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi, to learn more about Katrina’s effects on the local community.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame alumni clubs around the country, which responded immediately in varying ways to the tragedy, have raised some $40,000 in on-going relief donations, some of which was deposited into the Universitys Katrina relief fund, some sent to alumni clubs inNew OrleansandMississippi, and the rest to various relief agencies.

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