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More than year after hurricane, Hoffa sees New Orleans damage

Monday, February 26, 2007

(Photo)
Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina covered this community park in New Orleans in September of 2005.
While she believed she was going to attend a three-day conference to provide playgrounds for children, Cloverdale resident Julie Hoffa saw a lot more.

Hoffa attended a conference in New Orleans through Kaboom, an organization founded to provide children with playgrounds.

It seemed fitting the conference took place in New Orleans nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina swept through, nearly destroying the city.

"We saw a lot of devastation 18 months after the hurricane," Hoffa said Sunday. "It looked like it came through last week."

Hoffa represented the Cloverdale Civic League at the conference, which consisted of seminars for fundraising, grant writing, and also gave individuals a chance to assist in building one of four playgrounds.

Home Depot donated $1 million to fund scholarship and grants to qualified organizations to attend the conference, which took place Feb. 8-10. The Cloverdale Civic League applied for a scholarship to attend the conference and received it to pay for all registration fees, and also provide a check for travel expenses.

Hoffa was in New Orleans for four days. While there, she said she learned an "awful lot" about the construction of playgrounds.

Kaboom took her and others at the conference to see two playgrounds in New Orleans, one in the Ninth Ward and the other at a nearby elementary schools.

"The one in the Ninth Ward had sustained a lot of damage," Hoffa said. "I had heard about it on the news, but until you go down there, you just have no idea."

Hoffa said Kaboom also took those at the conference to Bay St. Louis, Miss., where the eye of the hurricane belted down. She said one of the first buildings constructed after Katrina included a playground for children.

"It was so touching," Hoffa said."(The playground was a place) where the community could gather and raise strength."

One of the projects Kaboom had the people at the conference get involved in was the building of a playground at an elementary school in New Orleans.

Hoffa said the group started construction of the playground at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m. on the same day with a ribbon cutting.

"It was just one little playground for a handful of kids," Hoffa said. "But it makes you feel very good."

Hoffa said organizers in New Orleans have been raising funds for playgrounds for children, but she was told it hasn't been easy.

"They had to be very inventive with the fundraising," she said. "Because they lost everything. But they did it. It was really touching."

While she was at the conference, Hoffa said she learned quite a bit and hopes to bring the information back to Cloverdale to help rebuild the town's playground.

She said the civic league hopes to have two soccer fields constructed by the end of the this year. In addition, she said funds are being raised for gravel and a walk path in addition to refurbishing the restrooms in the park.

She said the civic league plans to have funds raised for playground equipment by next year.



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