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ND given Katrina recognition

Ryan Sydlik | Thursday, October 26, 2006

Notre Dame’s service in Katrina-ravaged areas has done even more than improve the lives of the storm’s victims – it’s won the University national recognition.

Notre Dame was one of nine U.S. universities to receive the Katrina Compassion Award for Excellence in Hurricane Relief Service award from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the nation’s largest independent grant-maker for the support of service and volunteerism.

In addition to the award for Katrina relief efforts, the corporation also gave Notre Dame an award for its overall mission of service.

Bill Purcell, assistant professional specialist at the Center for Social Concerns, said the corporation was likely impressed by the quick and comprehensive nature of Notre Dame’s relief efforts.

The University reacted to the tragedy through a variety of prayer services, fundraising efforts and forums to discuss national issues that resulted in the aftermath.

“It was everything from the [Hesburgh] Library collecting books [to] engineering [students that] went [down to the region] in a Winnebago,” he said.

The fundraising process began during the Sept. 17, 2005 Notre Dame-Michigan State home football game, and the University was able to donate “close to a million dollars in cash [to] the Catholic Charities U.S.A. … Holy Cross sites and [Alliance for Catholic Education] sites,” Purcell said.

Notre Dame students began to contribute to the rebuilding process during fall break of 2005, and 118 students recently returned from this year’s fall break relief effort, Purcell said.

He said this highlights Notre Dame’s ongoing assistance efforts – which don’t involve just students.

“It’s faculty, staff, students and alumni,” Purcell said, “which is nice since we have [the entire] Holy Cross family … helping [the Gulf Coast family] in need.”

Purcell said Notre Dame’s connections as a Catholic university were extremely helpful to relief efforts. The CSC’s contact with New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes allowed University President Father John Jenkins to meet with him to coordinate efforts.

A Holy Cross school was also able to house volunteers from the engineering department and ACE while they aided local schools.

Purcell said he did not expect to receive the award when he submitted the grant application that became the basis to choose the award’s recipients.

“I was actually surprised [Notre Dame received an award] because we were not one of the schools down in the area,” he said.

Other schools to receive the award included the University of Connecticut, Georgetown University, Baylor College of Dentistry, Louisiana Tech University, Central Michigan University, the State University of New York at Geneseo, Southern University and A&M College and Xavier University of Louisiana.