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A Service Day in Remembrance: New Orleans, Six Years After Hurricane Katrina

September 6, 2011

Corps members Kaitlin, Mark, Laura, and Maggie are ready to do some trash pick up and beautify the Bywater neighborhood.

By: Laura Slotkoff, Corps Member proudly serving at Sarah T. Reed Elementary School

On Saturday, August 27th, almost 6 years to the day since Hurricane Katrina’s vicious assault, over a hundred volunteers gathered in the Bywater area to demonstrate New Orleans’ spirit and resiliency. City Year New Orleans and the Bywater Neighborhood Association ran the event, but volunteers came from every corner of the city.

We had three teams of volunteers scour Poland Ave., Burgundy St., and Dauphine St. of trash. A second team covered 1000 square feet of graffiti at A.J.’s Produce mart. The hardiest team rolled up their sleeves, donned respirators, and cleaned out the Bywater stables, removing enough debris to fill a 40 foot dumpster.

My name is Laura and I am a City Year Corps Member who moved here from Philadelphia a few months ago. I came here because I love working with children in the classroom, but I have never before participated in such a physically intensive project like this before. I yanked half-buried garbage out of the earth. I cut and dragged vines and tree branches hiding the beautifully historic Poland Ave Stables from the rest of the community. Others loaded trucks with rusting desks and debris from inside the stables. On Burgundy St., Corps Members and volunteers broke up cement with a sledgehammer in order to plant trees along the sidewalk. We were all sweating in the sun together, physically improving our home. A few years ago no one was sure New Orleans would be standing today. It was a unifying, rewarding experience.

Seeing the enthusiastic reaction of all the people living in the area was a highlight. Many of them thanked us for our hard work, and some even grabbed their gloves and came outside to help us. “It was great to see the support of the community,” said Anna Kann, City Year Corps Member. District C City Councilperson, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, and her staff also pitched in. “We have to find ways to connect and make sure everyone takes part in rebuilding the city,” she said.

Overall it was an exceptional day of service. We all came together to improve the health of our community. As Corps Member Brett Sutton, who moved from Kentucky to serve New Orleans said, “New Orleans folk have an incredible resiliency. It’s a prime example of how people will not fall down.”

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