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United Way Blog

Hurricane Katrina, Ten Years Later

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into southeast Louisiana, followed three weeks later by Hurricane Rita. The economic cost was staggering: more than $100 billion in property damage. The human cost was heartbreaking: more than 1,400 lives lost, and a million more displaced.

Together, we suffered. Together, we grieved. Together, we endured.

Ten years later, we look back to acknowledge the progress we’ve made, and to rededicate ourselves to restoring what was lost, while building our communities stronger than before.

In the last decade, United Way of Southeast Louisiana has raised $178.4 million to help the Gulf Coast recover in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In the immediate aftermath of the storms, we concentrated on basic needs: food, clothing, temporary shelter, and medical support.

Later, we worked with partners to provide more than 223,000 mental health counseling sessions, rebuild 272 childcare centers, and enroll kids in more than 183,000 quality afterschool services, so that children and youth could have a safe and stable place to learn and play. We also set up individual development accounts and helped residents save more than $60 million with free tax preparation assistance—so people could rebuild their assets, put a roof back over their heads, and start living their lives again.

Our work isn’t done. We remain committed to every person who lives, works and raises a family in southeast Louisiana. From the devastation of Katrina has arisen a deeper sense of community, stronger and more resilient than any levee. Together, we fight on. Together, we LIVE UNITED.

More about Alternative Spring Break

The very first United Way Alternative Spring Break (ASB) took place in various parts of the Gulf region, including Biloxi, Mississippi, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Since its inception in 2006, 5,000 students have traded in beach towels for tool belts during their spring break, volunteering 150,000 hours in 15 communities across the U.S. and Jamaica.

The idealistic young students who volunteered for the very first United Way Alternative Spring Break are all adults now, with jobs and perhaps families of their own. Many of them were so inspired by their experience that they went on to take permanent leadership roles in their communities. In fact, three people who participated in the first ASB went on to found an organization called Break a Difference, which creates ASB opportunities and currently leads most of United Way’s current ASB trips.

Take a trip with us down memory lane to the first days of Alternative Spring Break…