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April 20th

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Katrina 10: Reflection


By Jessica Vermilyea

Jessica Vermilyea, Upbring Disaster Response State Director in Louisiana, has been actively working in the recovery efforts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita the last 10 years, as our agency provided on-the-ground services along with case management, emotional and spiritual care—which included supportive disaster case management services to 10,615 households during the Hurricane Katrina recovery. Jessica participated in several of the recent 10-year commemorative community events and shared a few of her thoughts.

Reflecting back on the last couple of weeks, it has been a real whirlwind of information, stories and activities. As things begin to settle back down to the normal routine, there are several things that strike me.

First, what an incredible journey the last 10 years have been due to the outpouring of support – both financially and through volunteers. Over and over again, we continue to hear and repeat the words “if it weren’t for the faith-based community…” And it’s true. Not only did the faith community step up to support the unprecedented devastation through financial support, but they sent thousands upon thousands of volunteers to help rebuild the Gulf Coast and many continue the mission today. Churches sent care packages, donations of furniture and wonderful quilts and prayer shawls – hand-made by wonderful women in the church. I have been blessed to watch a transformation of this place, of the people who live here and those who came to help. It has been transformative.

The other thing I’m left with – after all the news crews have packed up and returned home and after all the celebrations have ended – is what is still left to be done for those still not home. As former President Clinton said in his speech during the “Power of Community” event, we should be happy and proud of what we have done, but we should not be satisfied. There is much left to do.


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