Rotary clubs remain committed to Katrina recovery effort
Humanitarian group’s international convention in New Orleans, delayed four years by the storm, will pump millions into the local economy in May 2011
NEW ORLEANS (Aug. 26, 2010) – Five years ago, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina made it impossible for New Orleans to host the Rotary International convention as planned in June 2007.
But even as they coped with their own personal and professional losses and pitched in to rebuild their communities, New Orleans area Rotary club members remained determined that the humanitarian organization’s most important annual meeting would return when the city was ready. Their dream will be realized May 21-25, 2011, when more than 17,000 Rotary members from around the world will convene in the Crescent City for the first time in 35 years, injecting a much needed infusion of at least $20 million into the local economy.
After Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, Rotary members worldwide raised more than $19 million in donations and grants for relief and recovery efforts throughout the region. This includes a special Katrina Relief Fund that eventually exceeded $1.9 million, with support from Rotary clubs as far away as Australia, Japan, Sweden, Panama, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
New Orleans Rotarians were particularly involved in the restoration of Warren Easton High School, which was severely damaged by the floodwaters that inundated much of the city. Rotary clubs in California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, and Germany helped raise $60,000 for repairs. Rotary volunteers from California and other states joined their New Orleans counterparts during the sweltering summer of 2006 to get the school ready for its reopening. Project coordinator Henry Lowentritt, of the Rotary Club of New Orleans, said opening the city’s schools was crucial to the overall recovery. “Teachers, parents, and kids who have left New Orleans won’t be back without quality schools,” he said.
In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, the UK-based charity ShelterBox, supported by Rotary clubs worldwide, provided 1,320 emergency shelter kits benefiting 13,200 people. Rotary clubs launched and continue to support scores of humanitarian and educational projects throughout the region, such as re-supplying a library and establishing low-income housing in Pass Christian, Miss.; replacing surgical instruments at a medical center in Houma, La.; providing a van for a senior center in Slidell, La., to help with the influx of new clients; and building a new community center in Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Looking ahead to the 2011 New Orleans convention, Rotary’s volunteer service again will be front-and-center as registrants can opt to participate in a local housing project and a wetlands restoration effort immediately before and after the sessions.
Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary’s global membership is approximately 1.2 million men and women who belong to more than 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.