[StBernard] Churches band together to help Katrina victims
westley at da-parish.com
Sun May 4 12:08:10 EDT 2008
Churches band together to help Katrina victims
Seven Catholic parishes will send 13 volunteers today
By Doug Carroll
Sheboygan Press staff
The media storm created by Hurricane Katrina was over shortly after the
storm itself had visited unprecedented devastation on New Orleans in August
And yet, faithful relief efforts persist out of the public eye, many of them
involving church groups such as one from Sheboygan County that leaves today
by van for a week of homebuilding in the city's St. Bernard Parish.
"You have to be there to really know the magnitude of what they went
through," said Jim Kloppenburg, 65, a retired carpenter from Sheboygan who
accompanied the group last year and also is going on this year's trip.
"It's still a mess down there. They're projecting 10 years to bring it close
Seven Catholic parishes from Sheboygan, Sheboygan Falls and Kohler have
banded together to send 13 people this year, and the group already has
committed to going back in 2009. As they did last year, the volunteers will
build a house through the auspices of Habitat for Humanity.
The hurricane's toll in St. Bernard Parish was staggering. Of a population
of 65,000 residents, only 6,000 had returned two years later. In the storm's
wake, only eight houses weren't under water.
"People put signs up in front of houses that said, 'A family with four
children used to live here,'" said Sonia Larson, 76, of Waldo.
The county contingent again will include Margaret Hall, 48, who moved back
to Sheboygan from New Orleans after the disaster. She lived there for 17
years, teaching at the Isodore Newman School that graduated football players
Peyton and Eli Manning.
Hall still grieves for what she and other residents lost and may never
regain. She spent a month in New Orleans last fall and is currently doing
substitute teaching in the Sheboygan Area School District.
"Every trip is a whole different set of emotions," Hall said. "I'm excited
to go this time. I need to connect with the few treasured friends I have
remaining there. Most of us have scattered, and many still are without
full-time employment, myself included."
Hall said church groups have stepped up to help rebuild New Orleans, with
"people who realize the difference that one person can make in the world."
Sheboygan County parishes also have sent more than $32,000 over two years to
St. Mary of Assumption, their "sister church" in New Orleans. The church
lost its roof in Katrina.
Jack Egan, 69, of Kohler, said the relief group bonded last year and is in
it for the long haul.
"It's amazing what happens when you put a crew of faintly connected people
together," he said.
While in New Orleans, the group will stay at Camp Hope, which serves as a
base camp for a number of rebuilding efforts and is about a half-hour from
St. Bernard Parish.
"People there are so appreciative that there are those who still care," said
Kloppenburg, who will take newcomers Tom Bersch, 64, and Rodney Schulz, 59,
two other carpenters from Local 731 of Sheboygan and Manitowoc.
Habitat for Humanity requires a family receiving a new home to finance half
of the project, through low-interest loans that are made available. Families
also are required to contribute their own labor.
Reach Doug Carroll at acarroll at sheboygan-press.com and at 453-5169.
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