Hundreds from Notre Dame to help with Katrina recovery projects while in New Orleans for Sugar Bowl

Author: Dennis Brown


While the Notre Dame football team will be busy in New Orleans preparing for and playing in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3, hundreds of others associated with the University also will be hard at work in the area helping with ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

More than 300 students, alumni, staff and administrators are planning to participate in three service events Jan. 2 in and around New Orleans.

Some 100 volunteers will serve in an Operation Helping Hands project in the Gentilly District of the 9th Ward, gutting a home in preparation for renovation or rebuilding. Another 100 members of the Notre Dame community will be involved in clean-up work at the Hope Haven Center, 1101 Barataria Blvd., Marrero, La., a residential treatment facility for children and adolescents with mild to serious behavioral, educational, emotional and/or family problems. More than 100 volunteers are scheduled to participate in a park beautification project at Mirabeau Playspot, 20 Chatham Drive, in the Gentilly District.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dames president, will be at Hope Haven and Mirabeau, participating in the projects and encouraging and thanking the volunteers. Others who have been invited to attend include Notre Dame alumni and New Orleans Saints players Jeff Faine, John Carney and John Owens; former Irish football player Rod West, a longtime New Orleans resident and chair of the Board of Supervisors at Louisiana State University; and Norman Francis, president of Xavier University and twice an honorary degree recipient at Notre Dame.

The service activities surrounding the Sugar Bowl have been organized by Notre Dames Alumni Association and Center for Social Concerns, and Catholic Charities. They are the latest University efforts to assist the people of the Gulf Coast recover from the devastation wrought by Katrina some 16 months ago.

Among the previous initiatives:

  • Immediately after Katrina struck, Notre Dame launched an effort to raise funds to assist with reconstruction efforts. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters of the University raised more than $314,000 – much of it coming from a collection taken at Notre Dame Stadium during the first home game after the hurricane hit. The money was distributed to Catholic Charities, the Louisiana ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross (Notre Dames founding religious order) and Alliance for Catholic Education host schools in the Gulf Coast region.* Notre Dame, like many universities around the country, offered to accept transfer students from colleges and universities that were ravaged by the storm, and about a dozen enrolled in both undergraduate and post-baccalaureate studies. In addition, faculty and staff assisted residents of the South who relocated to the South Bend area. Notre Dame also served as the 2006 summer home for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies of Xavier University of New Orleans, the only Catholic institution among the nations historically black colleges and universities.* In October 2005, just six weeks after Katrina, a delegation from Notre Dame led by Father Jenkins toured New Orleans to get a better sense of the destruction and learn how the University could assist Catholic Church ministries in the city. The trip led to several of the projects cited below.* More than 250 students have assisted with recovery efforts during the past three spring and fall breaks.* The Alumni Association joined with Habitat for Humanity to build a home in five days.* The Notre Dame Monogram Club created the Catastrophic Relief Fund to assist former student-athletes – including those living in the Gulf Coast region – who face major health and/or financial hardships.* A dozen alumni from six states joined with current students during spring break to assist with an Operation Helping Hands project.* Architecture students, under the direction of faculty members Philip Bess and Al DeFrees, provided design ideas to residents of Biloxi and DIberville, Miss., whose homes were damaged or destroyed.* Most recently, 15 student-athletes and five athletic department administrators, including athletic director Kevin White, spent fall break (Oct. 16 to 20) in New Orleans working on repair projects.

In October, Notre Dame was one of nine schools in the nation to receive a Katrina Compassion Award for Excellence in Hurricane Relief Service from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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