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Parishioners worshipped Sunday without lights or heat at St. Camillus Roman Catholic Church in Rockaway Park, Queens.

Craig Ruttle, Associated Press

Victims of Katrina offer heartfelt aid after Sandy

  • Article by: STACEY PLAISANCE
  • Associated Press
  • November 11, 2012 - 8:19 PM

NEW ORLEANS - The chaos wrought by superstorm Sandy, the homes tossed from foundations and landmarks buried beneath seawater, delivered a gut-wrenching dose of déjà vu for survivors of Hurricane Katrina like Joe and Gloria Robert.

Their own home flooded beneath 7 feet of salty water when the levees broke after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, and they know all too well what their countrymen to the north will face: years of debris removal, cleanup, rebuilding, haggling with insurance companies, paying mortgages on homes left unlivable. And they knew they had to help.

"When you watch things like this, you relive all the memories, all the heartache," said Joe Robert, his voice cracking with emotion. He said the images of Sandy victims rummaging through what could be salvaged of their toppled and flood-ravaged homes were painful reminders of his own loss. "I don't have any pictures of my daughter when she was little."

Seven years after Katrina destroyed neighborhoods, killed more than 1,800 people and caused some $108 billion in damage, many of the people caught in its cross hairs are reaching into their wallets and cupboards to try to bring relief to the Atlantic Coast.

Church groups, nonprofits, City Hall and individuals in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast have begun sending care packages, donating money and staging volunteers for the clean-up and recovery efforts.

Robert is working with the Episcopal organization that helped him rebuild his home, St. Paul's Homecoming Center, which was established after Katrina to help residents as they returned to the city to rebuild. The center has expanded its mission to include victims of not just Hurricane Isaac, which struck Louisiana in August, but also East Coast victims of Sandy.

The group has launched an "Adopt-a-Family" program where donations can be made to families in either region to help them as the holiday season approaches. The organization is also coordinating volunteer efforts along the East Coast. They are collecting donations and helping to ferry volunteers from the Gulf Coast to devastated neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey.

Taking a lead in organizing relief efforts for victims of Sandy are New Orleans musicians, many of whom have ties to the entertainment industry in New York. It's a place that many travel to for gigs, and they feel an affinity for the city that never sleeps.

Ivan Neville and others donated proceeds from a recent New York concert to benefit Sandy victims while big band singer Johnny Angel -- a Staten Island native who has lived in New Orleans since the 1990s -- is taking a U-Haul truck of donated bleach, mops, rakes, buckets and cleaning supplies from New Orleans to New York.

Neville, the son of Aaron Neville -- one of the four Neville Brothers -- said he remembers musicians from across the country coming together for the "Big Apple to the Big Easy" benefit concert after Katrina headlined by Jimmy Buffett, Elton John and others. His own family home in eastern New Orleans flooded in 2005.

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