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Feeding Families in New Orleans

Annual meeting delegates volunteer at a local food bank to help provide emergency food assistance

July 1, 2010

By Cindy Long

On a muggy, drizzly southern Louisiana morning, a busload of volunteers departed from the Ernest N. Memorial Convention Center to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. Their mission: pack boxes of food to deliver to the soup kitchens, church pantries, homeless shelters, and other social services agencies that feed the area’s hungry.

“We’ve been doing this at every Annual Meeting since 1999,” says Cathy Savage, a retired special education teacher from the Ithaca City School District. “We’ve grown and evolved into a dedicated group of community service delegates who volunteer at a Food Bank, at a Ronald McDonald House, or on a Habitat for Humanity project in each of NEA’s annual meeting host cities.”

Cathy Savage of Ithaca, New York, has been organizing annual meeting outreach activities at the NEA Annual Meeting since 1999.

Photo by NEA/Scott Iskowitz.

This year’s projects at the food bank and at a Habitat for Humanity construction site in Slidell, a few miles outside of New Orleans, were especially meaningful for the volunteer delegates. Not only does a massive oil spill threaten the livelihoods of shrimpers, oyster and fishermen, but this summer also marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

“On our way to the convention center, we drove through some of the hardest hit areas of the city, and five years later, they’re still recovering,” says Amy Harrison, a special education teacher at Reedy Fork Elementary School. “They still have blue tarps on their roofs, or tents in their yards. They’re not even close to being back from that storm, and a new season has just started.”

Harrison says she’s always engaged in community service because she believes it is part of her job as an educator – not only to give back to her community, but to provide an example to her students.

Mary Clair, a Spanish and ELL teacher from Las Vegas, agrees. She’s the community service advisor at her middle school. But she also wants to help the children of New Orleans.

Mary Clair of Las Vegas, Nevada, helps inspect salvaged groceries for distribution to hungry families in New Orleans.

Photo by NEA/Scott Iskowitz

“This city has been hard hit,“ she says. “We’re here, so let’s help. They’re our children, too. We may be feeding one of our future leaders, and if I can help them and this community by providing food and nourishment for the few days I’m here, well then that’s what I’m going to do.”

If you want to help, you can visit the Annual Meeting’s Food Bank Booth, located in Hall F of the convention center. The booth will operate from July 1-6 and will serve as a central donation point. State delegations are encouraged to promote fundraisers to support the booth, which has been an NEA tradition since the 1970’s.


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