Katrina's Angels

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Updates For January 2007

Katrina's Angels Updates


We will be focusing ONLY on community long term projects so that we might offer
solutions to needs to entire neighborhoods. This means we are shifting from
individual relief --we will NOT be offering assistance to individuals. We will
offer support to other groups that are doing an exceptional job with individual
support, though.This way we hope to offer help to many more people and help
create opportunities that are long term. Some proposed projects we are looking
at are:
1. Setting up a food pantry.
2. Securing transportation for the elderly to get to medical help.
3. Developing a playground.
4. Creating policy and procedures to set up several distribution centers in the
event of another disaster.
5. Continuing our support of schools, libraries and day care centers.
6. Creation of community "recovery" gardens.


Become a Sewing Angel:
Make a Difference!

Become a “Sewing Angel’ in your own community. We need seamstresses/seamsters, sewers and quilters to donate their skills and time. You can organize a sewing circle with your crafty friends or ask your Quilting Guild to sew quilts for Gulf Coast communities.

Quilt donations/merchandise will be used for Gulf Coast Community raffles or fundraising purposes. In some cases, handmade items will be sent directly to families requesting quilts.

What can you make?
Regular size quilts
Crochet/Knitted Afghans
Lap Quilts (for nursing homes)
Baby quilts/blankets
Bedding for Dogs/Cats
Kitchen items (like hand towels)
Hats, Scarves
Baby outfits
Wall Hangings
Seasonal Items

First Annual "Keep Toasty" EventNo one likes to be cold and Katrina's Angels wants to make sure thisdoesn't happen to the folks in the Gulf area.Katrina's Angels has received many requests for assistance in findingwarm clothing and other items for the winter months. There are peoplewho can not afford new coats or blankets, there are children who haveoutgrown last year's coats and there are people who are loweringtheir thermostats to very chilly levels because of rising heatingcosts. The National Weather Service has predicted a colder winterthat normal in the Gulf.As a result we are sponsoring a "Keep Toasty" event. We are askingfor volunteers to hold drives to collect anything that could keepsomeone warm---coats, sweaters, blankets, socks, pajamas, blankets,etc.This is a great way to start the New Year by helping these folks. Allit would take is to put a collection box out in your office building,in your school, in your church or your college dorm and let peopleknow we need these new or VERY gently used items. Or just collectgift cards or cash for us to buy these things. We have really learnedhow to make those donation dollars stretch!Every single item is destined for a family that needs them. We canhelp with flyers, contacting the local media, whatever support wehave. If you are interested or have a suggestion, please contact usat info@katrinasangels.org and mention the "Keep Toasty" event. Ourgoal is 1000 items and we have no doubt, with your help, we'll beable to reach that goal. Plus think of all the extra room in yourclosets!Thank you!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Think Small

Think small....I know Donald Trump would point at me sternly and declare "You're fired" if I suggested this way of thinking. But thankfully Donald and Rosie have bigger fish to fry right now and I can explain why I say this.

Many times when we talk with the hurricane survivors or actually see the resukts with our own eyes, we find we feel overwhelmed at the enormity of the devastation and wonder if we are just spinning our wheels. I mean, really. We are a group of regular people with families, we struggle to pay our own bills, we argue with our spouses, our bosses don't appreciate us like they should, the car is making a worrisome rattling noise and don't those loud neighbor realize we have to go to work in the morning? And what about the whole global warming thing? When will our kids actually listen to us? We have high blood pressure, greying hair and expanding waistlines due to the fact we are hunched over pcs all day. So where do we get off thinking we can do anything?

I admit, I've had those days. My husband complains because he wants me to get a "real" job, other husbands want to know if they will ever see another home cooked meal. We don't get paid. We even hear complaints from the people we are trying to serve and believe me when I tell you---all volunteers are NOT nice people. They bicker, they accuse, they type in all CAPS, BECAUSE THEY ARE REALLY ANGRY AT YOU ABOUT EGREGIOUS ACTS that you cannot even figure out what the acts are or even what the word "egregious" means.

I have days where I just want to bang my head off my keyboard or send bad little nasty emails or even just quit and get that "real" job so my husband stops his incessant nagging and I can buy something silly, like another pair of black shoes, with my own money and no guilt about not contributing.

But then (please imagine the sound of heavenly choirs and grab some tissues) I think about the lady who said the check we sent her was the difference between being homeless or paying her rent, I think about a grandma so excited about a $10 gift we gave her that she can give to her grandson for Christmas because otherwise she wouldn't have had anything. I look at pictures from our Mississippi trip and think about how much I love my co-workers and other folks we met. I remember some of the hilarious stories I've heard from people that have suffered so much more than me but can still laugh with me.

But besides all of these things making me all too aware of my own humanity, I realize that every single effort, big or in most cases, small has made a difference in some way to someone who has needed help. Not just my efforts but we have volunteers all over the country, moms, dads, teenagers, the more mature (I guess you'll be able to figure out that I am more mature, yet still cool) people, college students, single moms, teenagers, and even children. I won't bore you with yet another recounting of all our accomplishments this year (please check out www.katrinasangels.org for more details...) but they are truly amazing. And every act started out small.

So here is some advice: Don't worry about not having a lot of time to contribute, don't worry that you don't have money to contribute, don't worry that you don't know what you are doing (never stopped us)---just help in any way you can. It all adds up and at the end of next year, I know you'll be really proud and impressed with how YOUR efforts, small or not, have helped.

Enough "smalls" can add up to a "big"
I will even do another entry soon to mention some specific small ways you can help us now.

2007 The Best Year Ever

That is my official prediction for the upcoming year. Last year was wonderful, we accomplished a lot, we learned a lot and we made life long friends. But how can we do better? We are still facing the same problems--lack of funding, donor fatigue, lack of interest from the media and other parts of the nation, burn out and still MANY people needing help. I think the best way to emphasize the state in the Gulf area is to imagine a scenario like this:

1. Home gone, probably not enough insurance coverage (if they paid at all).
2. Place of employment gone.
3. Had to relocate temporarily but still pay a mortgage on the non livable house.
4. Family is scared, stressed out and has no idea where to begin fixing things.
5. Really, really slow aid from insurance company, government programs and few employ,ment opportunities because the businesses are gone or not hiring.
6. Housing and utility costs have almost doubled.
7. No schools, no medical care, no dentist, no familiar support systems.
8. Damaged infrastructure--utilities are still wonky, roads are messed up, huge piles of debris are everywhere holding up rebuilding anyhow.
9. MOLD !!!!! Health issues resulting from the mold.
10. A lot of assistance programs ending.

These are just 10 of the STILL EXISTING situations in the Gulf and if you were a renter, you can't find housing at all that is affordable. And probably still have 100 other issues to deal with.

And the scary part is---if there were another disaster of this magnitude any where ELSE in the United States, how much better prepared would we be? We all joke about the "Big One" in California but with more people there, have we learned enough to handle this possible situation and the aftermath? I sure hope so but I have some doubts.

So you are probably wondering how this ominous question relates to my prediction of 2007 being the best year ever. So inspite of some doubts, I still feel 2007 will be better because I think there were a lot of lessons learned and there are a lot of people out there that experienced the hurricanes and are doing their best to make us better educated and more prepared for the next disaster. better yet, we can all do our part--we can educate ourselves, make sure our own families are prepared and have a plan or help organize before another event.

This is what Katrina's Angels is hoping to do this year. We want to create distribution points nationwide, we want to develop policies and procedures and basically create opportunities where we could potentially help. As a volunteer non profit, we'll start small, do our homework, create policies and procedures, modify those policies and procedures and keep forging ahead so we can take the lessons from the hurricanes and make something positive happen in the future.

We are still committed to helping in the Gulf. No way we could stop helping there when so much needs done. And we have grown to love the people there. We are focusing on long term community projects which will not only benefit entire communities but continue our education for helping other folks in other areas.

So think about it? Are you prepared? Can you lend a hand to help others prepare?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

There's Still Lots to be Done--Mississippi Memories

Mississippi: You know, I think this state gets a bad rap. It is truly lovely but maybe the locals don't want their beautiful state over run with tourists. The skies are blue, the weather was gorgeous and traffic is minimal. And KA put a roof on the homeless shelter. The homeless shelter suffered roof damage from the hurricane and wasn't able to be used. When we first saw the outside of the building, my heart sank. There was a large portion of the roof that needed replaced and debris everywhere. But the inside was a pleasant surprise. The building itself is an old firehouse (sorry, no fireman's pole) but the interior is in great shape, with the exception of the room directly under the roof damage. There are 2 offices, a large living area, a great kitchen, and several bathrooms. With everyone's help, this space could be put to great use and be a wonderful resource for the community. In fact, while we were working on the roof, people stopped by to inquire when the shelter was going to be functional. There was interest and definitely a need. The furniture all needs replaced and there's a nice niche to put some computers. This is a remarkably homey set up and not institutional at all. There is talk about using the facility as a place to prepare meals for the hungry too.

If a middle aged, sedentary Program Director and an IT guru and a pastor from Memphis can raise the roof (so to speak) with the able assistance of contractors Jerry and Danny, I know we can get handle setting up the rest of the shelter. Seth, our charming volunteer from Memphis, and quite the ladies man, was a tremendous help. I basically crouched a lot and handed anyone any materials. Duane Collins, a very charismatic and energetic pastor kept us all motivated, even when a nap was calling after 8 hours or so. We even had a visit from a four legged resident who loved the lunch of our chili dogs. I met some red ants, lived in fear of snakes, smashed a few fingers, and basically enjoyed the day. It was gorgeous out and at times local people would stop by and give us a hand. I can't wait until the shelter is completely furnished and ready for business.

We got the chance to see some smaller FEMA parks. One was small and well maintained, if you overlook the "Ground Zero" landscaping effect. While the people appreciate the trailers, the trailers are small. close together and there's absolutely nothing for the kids to do. We have to get these kids some sports equipment. There were many indications that the residents were trying to make their temporary homes more cozy (plants, grills, lawn chairs) but I'm sure every single person wanted to be in their own homes. One of the bigger parks had crime problems and it was sad to hear that people would rob someone living in a FEMA trailer. There are no arrangements for security and the overworked FEMA rep we spoke to was responsible for several parks and spent her days travelling to each park.

But here are my very happy memories of Moss Point, MS and area: The people are the greatest! It was like a family reunion---they welcomed us weary and confused travellers with hugs and smiles and fed us like nobody's business. If I lived down there and ate the local delicacies, I would weigh 800 pounds and never get on a roof. We had fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and catfish. Do I even have to mention the heaven that is biscuits and sausage gravy? These people know how to eat and trans fat does not exist. The Thanksgiving dinner itself was great and the Kitchen Queens were a well oiled machine. They didn't even blink when we ended up (when THEY ended up) feeding an additional 250 people. I can have a nervous breakdown when I get 3 unexpected guests at one of my dinners! These ladies worked like dogs and never complained once. Good job! The children were the sweetest ever--the sight of them in their Sunday best and bright smiles was my greeting Sunday morning. Is there anything more appealing than little girls with hats on and little boys with suit jackets on? And the adults were no slouches in the fashion department either. I was extremely disappointed my hat didn't make the trip but these ladies were fashion plates and I was lucky to be surrounded by good looking men in suits. I felt like I was going to the prom again.

I want to dedicate a whole paragraph to the choir. I have always liked gospel music for its energy but seeing the choir in person was a whole new experience. The singers didn't just sing and harmonize---they felt the music and enjoyed the opportunity to sing. I was in tears watching them because they were so impassioned and their expressions and joyfulness showed it. These people were belting these songs out and were so talented, it stopped me in my tracks. And the Sunday service---now I know why people don't do much on Sundays. You're exhausted from the services. It was so much fun and so uplifting. Maybe it is a common practice, but I have never had a welcome song sung to me as a visitor in the church. I think this tradition sums up the feeling of our trip-----it was like coming home. And these people don't complain about their losses, they are thankful for what they have. I walked into a meeting late but managed to catch the pastor's closing remarks. He said (to paraphrase), that while Katrina caused so many bad things to happen, it also caused many good things--how else would we have met each other and done what we did?

I truly hope Katrina's Angels can continue our works because, while the adventure was tiring, it was one of the most meaningful events of my life. I met people I will never forget because of their dignity and humility, their desire to do what it takes and to help others, in spite of their own losses, their warmth and generosity, their humor and optimism and just their basic goodness. And to be able to share this with the other KA people (believe me, there are many days, I speak more with these tireless people, than with my husband) made my Thanksgiving the best ever. It was a holiday with my KA family and I love everyone that was there. (especially a cute little 6 year old named Sam, who kept me on my toes and laughing). I can't wait to see what the future brings but I wish everyone could experience something like this.

Lessons learned in Mississippi:

1. They have a different way of telling time. A few minutes can mean a few minutes or an hour. So just slow down and enjoy!
2. The best coffee ever -Starbucks has nothing on the regular coffee.
3. Service roads are neat but confusing for us Northerners
4. Forget diets, cholesterol, and too much sodium. The way I figure it, these salted, deep fried foods are not only delicious, but almost like taking a vitamin.
5. There are more churches and pastors per capita than anywhere in the world, other than the Vatican, maybe. These people just don't go to church for an hour on Sunday--they live their faith and aren't embarrassed or worried about being polically correct to tell you about it. But I have to agree with Pastor Moffat, these people ARE crazy but in the best way possible.
6. It doesn't matter about your race, religion, economic status, government affiliation etc--Mississippi people are down to earth and loving. So forget the media coverage you may have seen.

And finally.......

7. There is nothing you can't accomplish with a small group of dedicated volunteers. The KA people overlooked physical problems, sleep deprivation, geographical locations, personal opinions and pulled off a Thanksgiving miracle,

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

OK, So I'm Back and I'm Finally Awake!

LOLOL! This has been a wonderful, though exhausting, experience! Barbara Nelson reports that we fed: 730 people! In addition, we handed out canned goods, toiletries, books, and a new toy for each child to all in need. I wish you all could have been there to see the looks on the faces of those that we served. They were so grateful, it warmed my heart. All clients who registered their clothing sizes and needs at the dinner will be receiving clothing items and some extras from the donations after the Thanksgiving holday.

Barbara's entire family helped prepare, from her parents (mom cooked, dad chauffeured everyone's children and helped set up the room) down to the children, who helped to sort and stack books. And let's not forget her wonderful sisters and brothers and inlaws. And all the others. They are a very loving, giving group of people.

First day (Tuesday night and Wednesday) it rained so hard they reported over 8 inches! But the ladies of the church were hard at work preparing foodstuffs for the dinner. New Community Angel Myrna Doernberg had arrived on Monday and was a tremendous help to everyone during the entire week.

Thursday brought the arrival of my sister, Brenda, from Montgomery; and Lynne and Cheryl and little Samantha and Seth Tino. We all met for the first time. They found me in the center by my voice! Hugs and tears did flow!

Friday, Mrs. Barbara Gibson, the mayor of the Village of Sun, LA drove over with her daughter, Regina, and another KA client, DoEllen. Katrina's Angels tooks good care of their little town last winter, and they came by to meet us and to take me and my little sister to a lunch. But not before Brenda and I packed tons of canned goods and books for the dinner! LOL! Needless to say---it was a late lunch!

Heard Lynne was on the rooftop of the Moss Point Emergency Shelter with Angel Seth Tino nailing shingles on the roof...too bad I didn't get a chance to see that in action!

Gotta go for now...I'll tell more later.

Karen Iwicki
Resource Director

Monday, November 13, 2006

I am going to Moss Point!

Hi, everyone! I am sooooo excited to be a part of the Moss Point, MS Trip! I finally get to meet several of the directors I have been working with on a daily basis. It would not be such a big deal, but we haven't had an opportunity to meet since Katrina's Angels began! We talk all the time. I agree with Lynne--I am sure that we will share a lot of hugs and tears. What we have been able to accomplish just this past year has been overwhelming. It would be difficult to define the deep bonds of friendship and community we share.

Another cool thing for me is I get to hang out with my youngest sister, Brenda, who currently resides in Montgomery, AL. She is driving down tomorrow to spend the week and help out. I live in Genoa City, WI, so I haven't had a chance to see her since April. And to think we get to have Thanksgiving Dinner together...

Today, I am racing to get everything done, for tomorrow, I will be on a plane to Moss Point! I get to meet a lot of wonderful people, and lend a hand to so many others.

If you can, don't forget to sponsor a family for Christmas! Or run a toy or gift card drive! Every little bit helps!

Karen Iwicki---Katrina's Angels Resource Director

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hey, KA has a blog!

Hey, Everyone: KA has a blog! The reason we decided to join the rest of the world of bloggers is because there are some many exciting things happening with us and so many people have assisted along the way. We wanted a way to post the news on a more timely basis and let everyone know how great our volunteers, donors, sponsors and staff members are. Plus there are just some neat things going on that may interest you that sometimes get forgotten over time. So please bear with us while we get started and we promise we'll get better!

First and foremost, I want to say that Katrina's Angels is involved in a lot of different projects now. Right after the hurricane, we were concerned with helping everyone we could and we spent most of our time on individual relief. But unlike most of the other groups that sprang up after Katrina, we have managed to continue and even grow. That is due to our volunteers and a core group of really dedicated and committed staff. In fact, I'm sure our families might mention the word "stubborn". But thanks to everyone helping and long hours hunched over keyboards and ears pressed to phones, we have come a long way.

This November 18th we are thrilled to be co-hosting Thanksgiving for close to 600 people in Mississippi. Several directors are flying in and I have no doubt the first hour will be spent in tears. This is the first time we will be seeing each other face to face. And believe me, there have been plenty of days when I talk to our directors more than my husband.

Then, while in Mississippi, we are collaborating with some great groups (Outreach of Love, ACTS, Restoration for Relief) we will be re-roofing an emergency shelter. This town of Moss Point has embraced KA and I can't tell you the wonderful people we've met from there (Barbara , Cynthia, Daphne and Duane). Hopefully, I won't have to be on the roof because they might have to get the fire department to get me down! But we will do our best to stay out of the volunteers who know what they are doing and are looking for more helpers if you have the time.

And need I mention that the holidays are almost here? And that there are many, many families still struggling to rebuild their lives and provide for their families? And that we would love to have lots of sponsors to help these families? Look for our upcoming Angel Tree to sponsor a family. If you don't want to buy your father in law yet another sweater because he is so hard to shop for, consider making a donation in his name. (PS He really does not want another sweater!)

If there are any creative people that have suggestions or ideas for events, fundraisers or drives, or just comments or questions, please contact us. We love the input and we can definitely use the help. And the best part is that you don't even have to leave your house. Just email us at info@katrinasangels.org and say your piece. We will definitely get back to you.

I hope you'll come back and check our blog out. You'll get a chance to meet the staff behind the emails and you'll hear about our "unsung heroes", both volunteers and our families we try to help. Everyone has a story and they deserve to be told. We are not going to focus on the negative but celebrate the small successes and the daily miracles that we are seeing.