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Tompkins County residents still sending relief and help to Katrina recovery
By Krisy Gashler •firstname.lastname@example.org • August 29, 2010, 6:45 pm
Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Ithacans continue to provide help and support to victims of the tragedy.
Much of Ithaca’s response has been coordinated or aided by the group Love Knows No Bounds. It was formed in fall 2006 by co-directors Catherine Martinez and Mike Ellis, both of whom had already done relief work individually or through other groups after the hurricane in August 2005.
“I think we were both touched by the fact that we knew that some areas of the city in New Orleans would be slower to get help just because of different patterns of poverty and oppression that play out in situations like this,” Ellis said. “We knew that the first areas to be targeted for rebuilding would be the tourist areas and the wealthier areas of town, and we knew that the areas that had little resources to begin with would have even less to draw from when they were dealing with this disaster.”
On the other hand, the 9th Ward, one of the poorest areas of New Orleans and the ward in which the levee broke, “became the public face of Katrina” and was receiving high-profile attention and help from celebrities and others, he said.
“We were inspired to help a part of the city that really wasn’t getting much attention,” he said.
Ellis had met Pastor Bruce Davenport in New Orleans’ 7th Ward in December 2005 and said he was moved by what Davenport was doing, both before and after the hurricane. Davenport and his wife, Deborah, were doing work in preventing HIV/AIDS, supporting youth with educational needs, rehabilitating gang members and helping seniors, teenage moms and people dealing with substance abuse, Ellis said.
“They meet the needs of their community and they’re not afraid to go into the places where nobody else wants to go. I mean he works with some of the toughest people in his community, the hardest to reach,” Ellis said. “I was really inspired and I said, ‘Whatever I can do to support his effort, I want to do it.'”
12 trucks, five trips
As a community, Ithacans clearly agreed. Five years later, Tompkins County residents have helped send 12 tractor-trailers worth of furniture, clothes, toys and other goods, and Love Knows No Bounds has organized five work trips to New Orleans, Ellis said.
The number of work trips jumps to almost 20 when including groups that have coordinated with Love Knows No Bounds but led their own trips, he said. Those include groups from Lehman Alternative Community School, Cornell University, Ithaca College, Binghamton University and Reform Temple Tikkun v’Or, he said.
With encouragement from Love Knows No Bounds, Ithaca’s Common Council voted in August 2007 to designate the 7th Ward as an official “Sister City” to Ithaca.
Tony Gaenslen headed a relief effort from Tikkun v’Or and two other Ithaca churches, St. Paul’s United Methodist and First Baptist, he said. The congregations fundraised in 2008 and sponsored five different groups to go down to New Orleans on work trips in 2009 to rebuild three homes, he said.
“We worked really hard. The whole community pitched in. We ended up raising about $20,000,” Gaenslen said. “It reminded me of the kind of dedication I saw during the civil rights movement.”
Julia de Aragon, who will be a sophomore at LACS next month, was one of 12 students and two adults who went on a work trip to New Orleans in May of this year. It was the fourth year that LACS has led such a trip.
The students learned basic construction skills from teachers’ assistant and painter Lee Baker, then used their new skills to tear down a wall, sand and put up new drywall in the home of Miss Audrey, de Aragon said. When the students were done, the home was ready to paint, she said.
“The last night we were there we went to Bourbon Street. You can almost see the line where it changes once you leave the 7th ward and the 9th ward and go into the tourist industry. The rebuilding is completely done there … whereas these poorer, residential neighborhoods have not been dealt with yet,” she said. “I would really love to go on the trip again this year. I think that’s definitely something I’m going to consider.”
Ellis’ most recent trip to New Orleans was in April of this year, and he said the neighborhood seems to be “at a crossroads.” During his first trip in 2005, Ellis said only one home in 50 was being worked on or lived in. Now it’s about 10 homes in 50.
Links to some more articles, if you please:
From the Ithaca Journal, about LKNB’s and others’ relief efforts in the Southern Tier of NY in 2011: http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20111123/NEWS01/111230345/Flood-giving-follows-flood-century-Tioga-residents?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CLocal+News&mid=5385
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, about a wonderful family we worked with in New Orleans: http://www.nola.com/living/index.ssf/2009/06/couple_married_47_years_is_fin.html
From our friends at Ithaca College: http://fuse.ithaca.edu/8721/
From leadership trainers, Landmark Education: http://www.landmarkeducationnews.com/2008/03/21/love-knows-no-bounds-ithaca-graduates-partner-with-new-orleans/
From Positive News, about our respite collaboration with the PeaceWeavers: http://positivenewsus.org/content/home/news/samplestor_7/planetaryf/default_html.html
And some TV news, too: