N.J. residents head south to help Katrina victims

The number of volunteers helping Hurricane Katrina victims has gotten considerably lower since the storm struck, but there are still plenty of New Jersey residents eager to lend a hand.

The Church of Presentation in Upper Saddle River has been sending volunteers down south for three years. This month, they organized a group of 60 volunteers who braved temperatures in the 90s to help rebuild homes and lives with their brooms, brushes and presence.

Mary Ellen Vogel, a volunteer from Ramsey, notes that television coverage can skew people?s perception of how things are occurring down south. Since the initial tragedy, New Orleans rarely makes headlines, and what is shown on TV gives viewers the impression of a thriving French Quarter.

?We think back north that things are moving along, but we?re not prepared to envision what is still in need down here,? Vogel says.

Kelly Corcoran, a teen from Allendale, says that even though conditions are tough, she will volunteer again. Meghan Graham, a volunteer from Wyckoff, says that after volunteering three times, she wants to become the next FEMA director.

Four New Jersey nurses also traveled south to volunteer. They completed paperwork to get licenses to practice medicine in order to help Katrina victims get answers to their medical questions. Plumbers and electricians must also work hard to receive licenses. In Katrina?s lingering aftermath, there is a great need for all three professions.

Miss Carroll, a victim of Katrina, has lived in a FEMA trailer since the hurricane hit in August 2005. But with the help of New Jersey?s volunteers, she now has a house of her own. ?I?m still crying when I think about all the volunteers,? she says. ?Still warms my heart.?

While Miss Carroll represents a post-Katrina success story, thousands of other victims still remain homeless. As of March 2008, 100,000 victims were still living in FEMA trailers. However, with help from volunteers, more victims can look forward to making the move from trailer to house like Miss Carroll did.

Some say this month?s rebuilding comes at a critical time. Hurricane season has started for the area, and deadly levels of formaldehyde have been found inside many of the victims? trailers, forcing them out.

Click here to see part one of News 12 New Jersey?s coverage of local volunteers helping outClick here to see part two of News 12 New Jersey?s coverage of local volunteers helping out

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