The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ACE provides relief for Gulf Coast

Antonacci, Kate | Friday, November 4, 2005

The fall break trip organized by the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) to a Gulf Coast area devastated by Hurricane Katrina ended in prayer under a 400-year old live oak tree that had survived the storm – unlike nearly everything around it.

“Everything around the tree had been destroyed: houses torn to bits, boats thrown up on the lands, cars overturned and a Church completely gutted,” said Thomas Bambrick, an ACE assistant director who traveled to the Gulf Coast from Oct. 16 to Oct. 21 with a group of Notre Dame students. “As Father Tim Scully led the group in prayer, a powerful sense of hope pervaded, as people reflected that blessings and moments of grace often accompany tragedy.”

ACE organized the trip to Biloxi, Miss. to help rebuild area ACE and neighboring Catholic schools destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, said Colleen Garvey, assistant director for Alliance for Catholic Education.

“I went because I feel it is important to help in whatever way possible,” senior Mike Zintsmaster said. “One of our hosts … had a fine quote: ‘There’s nothing worse than the man who does nothing because he can only do a little.'”

Bambrick said 17 students were picked to attend the service seminar out of approximately 30 who applied.

“Seeing the aftermath of the hurricane as we drove along the Gulf Coast was completely overwhelming. I’ve never seen such destruction,” senior Barrs Lang said. “After hearing the story of the local priest and walking through his home which had at one point been submerged in 52 inches of water, we were all desperate to help in any way we could.”

The group stayed in Mobile, Ala. at one of the diocesan retreat centers, Bambrick said, and worked at area Catholic schools, including Resurrection Elementary School, Resurrection Catholic High School and St. Peter the Apostle Elementary school.

“At three of the schools, they were in session so we were working while they were in classes,” Bambrick said. “The principals who were asking us to do certain things were trying to administrate and run the school because they had just … reopened.”

The group was shocked with the amount of work there was, and still needs to be done, in the flood-stricken area.

“There was so much destruction and devastation that they have months and months and years even that needs to happen,” Bambrick said. “I was also surprised because they told us that it was already so much better than it was after the hurricane.”

The group used tools supplied by the diocese and used money from the ACE hurricane relief fund to buy supplies for the schools.

“In a week filled with both suffering and hope, we witnessed schools at every stage of recovery, from buildings still strewn with rubble to those newly cleaned and even newly constructed,” Bambrick said.

The group assisted four different schools at every stage of recovery, Bambrick said.

“The group I was in worked at a school that was rebuilt in a roller rink,” Lang said. “We installed Internet ports in every classroom and office in the building. This involved crawling through ceilings, running wires and installing jacks and ports. It was hard work but the final product truly gave us a sense of accomplishment.”

Students also organized books donated from all over the nation for the school’s new library, ripped tiles off of the floor at a St. Vincent de Paul center and helped clean areas covered in debris and flood water, senior Kat Moravek said.

Moravek said there was a great level of hope and determination in the schools in once beautiful communities that were “now a pile of debris.”

“What struck me most when I first arrived was the amazing spirit of the people afflicted by the disaster. They were so full of hope and determination and so incredibly grateful for our presence,” senior Amber Jackson said.

In addition to sending students to the Gulf Coast, ACE will be dispersing the $62,000 collected by the University for Katrina relief.

“That contribution is composed of one quarter of the stadium collection,” Garvey said, referring to the Sept. 17 collection at the Michigan State football game that raised more than $240,000.

ACE worked for weeks on sending a shipment of supplies to the region to support the devastation of ACE schools in the afflicted areas.

A total of $30,359 worth of products were successfully delivered to Biloxi on Oct. 24.

In an Oct. 27 letter to executive assistant to the president Frances Shavers, Timothy Gibney, assistant vice president for procurement services, described the breakdown of products delivered.

After contacting individuals in the Biloxi area, Gibney was better able to discern what products were needed most in schools.

The licensing department sent 24 boxes of shirts of various sizes, valued at $22,260 total, and four boxes of hats and visors, valued at $960.

NDSurplus, whose pricing is reduced significantly compared to the fair value market, sent 23 computer systems valued at $2,771 and 98 miscellaneous furniture items valued at $1,928.

Building Services donated 500 towels, 60 bed pads and 90 blankets, Gibney said.

The Office of Information Technologies (OIT) donated one fax machine, one scanner and ten DVD/VCR players.

An additional $80,000 has been raised by ACE graduates and friends, Garvey said.

“Returning to Notre Dame at the end of the week, we could not help buy feel a renewed sense of faith and trust, as the terrible images of devastation were overcome by the stronger images of determination and hope,” Bambrick said.