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July 5, 2011 > Rotarians assist New Orleans rebuilding efforts

Rotarians assist New Orleans rebuilding efforts

Submitted By Sandi Pantages

The 1400 sq. ft. room was empty on the morning of May 20, 2011, as 18 Niles Rotarians and family members arrived at the New Orleans Mission near downtown New Orleans, LA. On the day before, the room had been painted by Rotarians from Missouri and Kansas, including the District Governor and Past District Governors, who had envisioned the New Orleans Mission Library project several years ago, as a post-Katrina rehabilitation project.

Rotarians from the Rotary Club of New Orleans-Riverbend, LA had been spending their weekends in the spring rehabilitating space in the New Orleans Mission that would become the Mission Library - repairing a Katrina-damaged roof and existing lighting, installing new fluorescent fixtures, priming walls and ceiling, and more.

Niles Rotarians began their work in earnest on May 20. Bookcases and tables needed to be assembled and carried up stairs into the library. Sofas, chairs, and area rugs were installed. Curtains and wall hangings were ironed and hung. Finally, a few hundred boxes of books were carried into the library room.

Niles Rotary had previously purchased a box of new books for the library - books on job search and skills, résumé writing, and books for children and teens. Hundreds of books had been donated by libraries in Missouri and Rotarians in Pennsylvania. With bookcases and furniture in place, Niles Rotarians completed the project by unpacking, arranging, and shelving the books.

By the time Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith arrived for an afternoon ribbon cutting and reception, the empty room from that morning had been transformed into the New Orleans Mission Library, ready for its resident users.

During the day, Niles Rotarians learned about the New Orleans Mission and its work. In addition to providing overnight housing and meals for the homeless in New Orleans, Mission staff and volunteers help their clients with financial planning, learning how to save money, how to find jobs, and stabilize their lives... to end their cycle of homelessness. The new library at the Mission will provide a source of support as well as a comfortable place for reading and study. According to the Mission director, the library project volunteers were part of the "marathon of Katrina recovery, who left their thumbprint on the city's recovery."

The Mission Library project was developed by Niles Rotarian and Community Services Director Chuck Canada, who read about the project and selected it as a service opportunity for Rotarians attending the Rotary International convention in New Orleans in May. Canada, a former City of Fremont Parks and Recreation manager, knew the value of a library for clients of a homeless mission. He convinced nearly 20 Niles Rotarians to join the work project. Those participating in the Mission Library project included: Chuck Canada, Kimberly Hartz Foster, Carol Smith, Sandi & Dick Pantages, Sandra & Daren Young, Lisa Lorenz, Merna and Gary Morse, Mary Lynn Pelican, Gary Basrai, Bob Hagg, Manuel Franco, Randy & Christina Hees, Dan and Linda Smith, Jeff Falk, Beth Booth, Rosemary Ashley.

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