Red Cross Commemorates Five-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

The American Red Cross is marking the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a dinner honoring first responders, commemorative events in Mississippi and a canvassing event in which volunteers will distribute information and resources to help be better prepared for future disasters.

When hundreds of thousands of people needed help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and two other major hurricanes that followed in the 2005 hurricane season, many individuals, foundations and corporations stepped forward to help. This incredible generosity – as well as the relief efforts of the Red Cross – is detailed in “Bringing Help, Bringing Hope,”an American Red Cross report covering the response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the ensuing years of recovery for the survivors.

 “Five years ago, the American public responded to Katrina with unprecedented generosity,”said Russ Paulsen, executive director of the Hurricane Recovery Program at the Red Cross. “Looking back, I think they can be proud of what their contributions accomplished.”

The American Red Cross will be participating in events across the Gulf Coast over the next several days to commemorate the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 

  • The Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross will host a Day of Service Readiness Canvassing Event on Saturday, August 28. American Red Cross and Target volunteers will team up to distribute bags with information and resources on preparedness and recovery to homes in neighborhoods heavily impacted by disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and home fires. A similar Day of Service project will also take place in New York City. 
  • The Southeast Louisiana Chapter later will host “Heroes of the Storm,” a fundraising gala on Saturday, August 28, that will honor first responders and pay special tribute to Gen. Russel Honoré, who mobilized the response. American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern will introduce Honoré and present him with a special gift. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army, National Guard, employees at Lockheed Martin, Entergy, local police and fire departments, and Red Cross volunteers from across the region will also be recognized.
  • The South Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross participated in the August 21st Tears to Cheers Music Festival. The event, held in Biloxi, kicked off a weeklong series of Phenomenal People Celebration of Healing events in observance of the five-year anniversary. All proceeds collected by the vendors at the week of events will go to support the American Red Cross, Hope CDA and other area nonprofit organizations.
  • The South Mississippi Chapter will be recognized for their achievements on Sunday, August 29, at a reception hosted by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in Gulfport. Later that evening, the Governor and First Lady will host the Governor’s Cup in Biloxi. The American Red Cross is one of the recipients, along with several other agencies. These awards, one of the highest given by the Governor, are given to honor businesses for their contributions during the past calendar year, raise general awareness about their successful efforts, and showcase their results.

Donors gave the organization a total of $2.2 billion for people affected by the storms, which helped the Red Cross provide: 

  • Shelter for survivors across 31 states and the District of Columbia
  • Hot meals and snacks
  • Financial assistance for 1.4 million families to purchase groceries, clothing, diapers and other basic needs; and money for people to return home, make home repairs and get back to work
  • Physical and mental health services to help them cope with stress and ease the trauma
  • Tools to help survivors chart a path to recovery
  • Disaster preparedness training so people know the steps to take to protect themselves and their families

“The hurricanes of 2005 tested us all,”said Paulsen. “Although we’re on better footing than we were five years ago, every individual and community has to be on board in order for our country to be more disaster-ready. There is much more that we as a nation can do. Everyone—government, businesses, non-profits and the faith community—needs to work together to have better prepared communities.”
The report, “Bringing Help, Bringing Hope: The American Red Cross Response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma,”is available at http://www.redcross.org/Katrina5Year.

 You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

 About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

Five years later; Local Reflection about Hurricane Katrina Response

Special blog post: Steve Maricque, Executive Director, American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time flashes before our eyes. Five years has passed since the power of Hurricane Katrina blasted our Gulf Coast. The impact of which changed many lives. Katrina had a wide reaching impact on our country like many had never seen before.

WLUK, WBAY, WFRV tv stations and Cumulus, Midwest and Woodard radio coming together on Wednesday, September 7, 2005 for Operation Broadcast Hope. This one day event helped raise $126,029.35 for hurricane relief.

I think back to the incredible human tragedy and destruction seen on television and the water flowing into New Orleans when the levees were breached. The impact was far reaching as shelters were being established across the country to help people from the Gulf Coast Region that were relocating to find safety. This relief operation was of a magnitude never experienced by the American Red Cross. I remember the constant media calls and interviews as media outlets locally worked to find a local story they could share.

Despite all the human tragedy and destruction that occurred, I remember how people came together to help like I’d never seen before in our country. Thousands of people came forward to volunteer in some way, give blood and give of their hard earned dollars to help those in need. Our Chapter alone collected over $1.2 million dollars locally. Fifty-two volunteers were organized, trained and sent to help in the Gulf. Some of those same volunteers remain with us today helping now locally to respond to disasters.

Major disasters can strike at any time and change lives in an instant. We need to be prepared as best we can by having emergency supplies on hand and families need to talk and prepare a plan in the event of a disaster.

(l-r) Steve Maricque, Executive Director, Carol Ingram, Jan Traversa and Mary Roellchen, Disaster Volunteers in front of one of three semis loaded with water and other supplies courtesy of Festival Foods and their customers.

I learned that the human spirit is far reaching. The willingness and need to help others still exists. The American Red Cross helps individuals fulfill that need. We provide the opportunity for those that want to help. We deliver hope for those impacted by disaster that a better day is on the horizon.

Volunteers Past and Present are the Strength of the American Red Cross

Special Blog Post by Kerri Hah in Honor of the Five Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

As a new volunteer for the Lakeland Chapter, I am amazed by the commitment and generosity of the volunteers in the eight county area.  Many of you have been giving your time for decades and new ones join every day.   By far though, the largest number of volunteers reached out to the Red Cross to help five years ago when they saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the news.  The fact that so many of you are still with the organization is a true sign of the important work the Red Cross performs and the strong leadership in place. 

During Hurricane Katrina, I was the assistant executive director for a chapter about the same size as the Lakeland Chapter out East.  In talking with staff here in Wisconsin, I quickly realized that we had similar amazing and heartbreaking experiences during these weeks five years ago.  Both chapters had an influx of clients coming to their doors needing assistance, both had donations pouring in from the community, and both had thousands of local residents interested in learning what they could do to help.  I recently learned the Lakeland Chapter deployed over 50 volunteers to the Gulf Coast, many of whom were new volunteers that would be going out on tough assignments for two to three weeks.  As a former staff person who knows all too well the complexities of this process, this is an astounding number of volunteers to train and get deployed in such a chaotic and short time frame. 

 My staff and I were able to deploy 32 volunteers, all of whom came back to the chapter with tearful and joyous stories of the families they helped.  As I look back five years later at many of the volunteer leaders at my former chapter, I am not surprised at all that many of them are the same volunteers who showed up at the Red Cross doors five years ago willing to do anything to help; I’m confident that Lakeland Chapter has the same situation. Today many of these are board members, DAT leaders, fundraisers, and committee chairs.  Red Cross chapters all over the country are stronger today in large part because of these volunteers. Although the fifth anniversary of Katrina should be a reminder that the unthinkable can happen and that we all must do our part to get our homes, communities, and nation ready, it should also remind us of the importance of volunteerism. 

 Kerri Hah

Red Cross volunteer & former staff member

About Kerri: Kerri Hah has been either volunteering or working for the American Red Cross for the last 13 years.  She started her career at the Outagamie County Chapter as assistant to the executive director/volunteer coordinator and over the years has worked for six different chapters in all lines of service including health and safety, volunteer services, disaster services, financial development, public relations, and chapter management.  In addition to her Red Cross work, Kerri is a full-time grant writer, currently acting as the development director for Creative Energy & Data, a Green Bay based renewable energy company.  She and her husband lived out East for the last ten years and recently moved back to Appleton to be closer to their families.  They have one daughter and are expecting another child this winter.