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One Year Later: An Update on AmeriCares Hurricane Katrina Response

  • August 25, 2006

When Hurricane Katrina crossed the Gulf Coast in August, 2005 and left devastation in its wake, the storm caused more than 1,300 deaths and displaced more than half a million people. AmeriCares responded rapidly to this disaster and, thanks to the generosity of thousands of donors, is continuing to work in the many communities that still need help.

AmeriCares is in the midst of a comprehensive grant program that is helping to meet the immediate needs of survivors and address the long-term recovery efforts.  Our goal is to help rebuild communities and enable local residents to resume healthy, productive lives.  In total, this program will contribute more than $12 million to recovery efforts.

AmeriCares is collaborating with local partners throughout the region, ensuring that our aid is appropriate and meets the greatest needs in the local communities. The following is a summary of some of our key efforts to date.

Supporting Primary Healthcare and Mental Health Needs
This month, AmeriCares awarded $3.2 million in grants to address the recovery needs of mental health and primary care providers in Louisiana.  Working in collaboration with two well-established partners, The Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Community Foundation of Acadiana, the AmeriCares grants will support 33 different projects across the state.  

To see a list of Hurricane Recovery Grants awarded to date, click here.

“The focus on primary healthcare in particular is crucial and much needed,” says Raymond Heber, executive director of Community Foundation of Acadiana.  “We had a population that was underserved to begin with and their needs were magnified after the storm.  These grants will give organizations that are in the trenches the opportunity to satisfy some of these needs that victims of these storms are experiencing.” 

Among those receiving primary healthcare grants are the American Lung Association of Louisiana and St. Thomas Health Services in New Orleans.  The American Lung Association will use the funds to assist individuals who are suffering from abnormal lung function as a result of the mold, air pollution and other problems associated with hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  St. Thomas Health Services will use its grant to increase pediatric services for its community health center serving the uninsured.

In the area of mental health services, AmeriCares partnered with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and awarded a total of 19 grants.  Among the recipients are the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center, Covenant House New Orleans, Kids in Crisis, and the Southern Law Enforcement Foundation, the latter of which will use its grant to expand the mental health benefits offered to police officers in the communities most impacted by the hurricanes.

Helping Communities to Help Themselves
Recognizing the contributions of grassroots efforts in community building, AmeriCares awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to local organizations earlier this year in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas who are addressing the most pressing recovery issues. 

For example, AmeriCares made a $25,000 grant to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast (BGCGC), which provides daily programs and services to more than 3,000 young people in the area.  After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Clubs’ buildings, the programs began operating out of local schools.  Visitors from AmeriCares stopped by the Jeff Davis Elementary School in West Biloxi on a recent summer afternoon and found 194 children engaged in various activities.  The younger ones were enjoying snack time after arts and crafts and outdoor play, while older children were learning about dental health. 

“Thirty-five percent of our kids have some type of disability, whether it is physical, learning or emotional,” said Greg Gipson, the unit director of the program in West Biloxi.  “Our doors open at 7 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.  Parents drop their kids off in the morning and know that their children are well taken care of for the whole day.”  The AmeriCares grant helped ensure that these important programs continued during the first summer vacation, post-Katrina.   

Volunteers from across America are an important part of the recovery effort, providing labor where it is scarce and bringing hope to those who are still coming to terms with their losses.  AmeriCares has donated more than $200,000 in financial and in-kind support to Crossroads Mission, an organization that is providing a volunteer base camp in East New Orleans to shelter the thousands of people who have decided to donate their time and services to help rebuild Louisiana.  AmeriCares contributions included a cash grant as well as a donation of three large “Sprung Structures,” durable, temporary structures that are now storing valuable building materials and other supplies used by the volunteers as they build and renovate thousands of damaged homes.

Looking Back at AmeriCares Emergency Response
In the immediate days and weeks after the disaster, AmeriCares delivered in-kind aid valued at more than $10 million to Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.  These donations of medicines, hospital supplies and other materials critically filled unmet needs.

Among those who received aid from AmeriCares were the Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Lafayette General Medical Center and the New Orleans Blood Center in Louisiana; Crosby Memorial Hospital, Mississippi Emergency Management Association, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Biloxi Regional Medical Center in Mississippi; San Antonio Metro Health District, San Jacinto Methodist Hospital, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and Harris County Hospital District in Texas.

The AmeriCares Free Clinics mobile health unit joined the relief efforts early on, departing from Stamford, Connecticut, and traveling to Baton Rouge. The mobile medical clinic usually provides services to Connecticut’s uninsured working poor.  For four weeks, it provided basic health care services for first responders in New Orleans as well as hundreds of displaced persons living in temporary shelters. The clinic was staffed with doctors and residents from Louisiana State University and Tulane University, as well as a volunteer team from the AmeriCares Free Clinics.
AmeriCares also filled myriad “unmet” needs in the course of the emergency response, such as transporting fire trucks and firefighting equipment from Connecticut to Kiln, Mississippi.  In Louisiana, for example, AmeriCares arranged for the donation and assembly of several large Sprung Structures in New Orleans’ St. Bernard Parish.

Looking Ahead
“After being in the Gulf region early on in the disaster, we recognized that the long-term efforts were going to be just as important as the immediate relief needs,” says Trish Tweedley, vice president of AmeriCares hurricane relief program.  “Our program was designed not only to meet the immediate needs but also to address long-term efforts.  One year later, there are still many areas that need our help and we are continuing to work with our partners to address their ongoing concerns.”

AmeriCares will continue to work in the Gulf Coast region this fall, with projects such as the reconstruction of two new playgrounds in Mississippi neighborhoods that were decimated by the hurricane, and allocating additional grants to organizations that are focusing on shelter.  Skilled labor and building materials are two components that are necessary to revitalize the many communities in Louisiana and Mississippi that still need help.  Thanks to the generosity of our donors, AmeriCares will be there to support these needs.