Prayers, party to aid Katrina relief effort

Community service to be held at 6 tonight at Centennial Hall

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2005

The aftermath of the hurricane that rocked the Gulf Coast has sent emotional shockwaves that have been felt as far away as Juneau.

A number of community members formed an impromptu fundraising committee shortly after the natural disaster struck.

"We are a community and we're affected because there are people in this community that are affected," said Beth Rivest, who has been helping with fundraising efforts.

The committee, which is unofficially going by Alaskans Supporting Hurricane Relief, has a couple of events this weekend and is planning more events in the near future. The group has organized a community prayer service that will begin at 6 p.m. tonight at Centennial Hall.

A Mardi Gras Tribute Party will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Nugget Mall. There will be live music, a silent auction, children's activities, an Alaskan Brewing Co. beer garden and more. Admission is $5 and all the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross, United Way and the Salvation Army.

"If anybody's been to a New Orleans funeral, they dance in the street. So I think it's appropriate for people to even have a good time while they contribute with the relief effort," said Deputy Mayor Marc Wheeler, a Louisiana native.

Wheeler said he will make a chicken and sausage gumbo to sell at the fundraiser. He said the disaster is enormous and people should help however they can.

"I think it's equivalent to a diaspora," said Wheeler. "I think that's basically what it is. Not only are these people's houses destroyed but they can't go back."

Juneau resident Bridget Esaw was in New Orleans just before the hurricane inundated the city. She said she plans to have a collage of pictures at the fundraiser to show faces of those displaced by the hurricane.

"I've been in Juneau 18 years but New Orleans is still my home," she said.

Esaw said numerous members of her family were displaced by the hurricane, some who may take refuge in Juneau. From talking with her family she said there is a great need for financial support, she said.

"I think (the best help is) financially, because there is such a great need and such a sense of hopelessness," Esaw said.

She said there will be booths at the fundraiser to help the community learn how to volunteer and how to help with the relief effort.

"I think they need to know that the effort is going to be a long-term effort," she said. "Many families are without homes, without jobs, so what are the long-term goals right now?"

Wheeler said the fundraiser will be a good time for a good cause.

"It gives us a chance to celebrate the culture that was affected ... and also raise some money to deal with the long-term aftermath," he said.

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