More than $8,000 collected here for Katrina relief

More than $8,000 collected here for Katrina relief

As the nation today deals with devastation from not one, but two hurricanes, here are the tallies of recent fund-raising efforts held at the University of St. Thomas to help those whose lives were upended by Katrina.

In addition to welcoming students from now-closed colleges and universities in New Orleans, members of the St. Thomas community opened their wallets at dances, Masses and fund drives.

St. Thomas’ Katrina Relief Challenge, the largest of the fund-raising efforts, raised $5,746.31 as of last Friday’s deadline.

The Enrollment Services Division (Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid) had challenged the UST community to raise $5,000 by Sept. 23. The money is going to the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Response Fund.

Because the goal was reached, senior administrators at the university will serve ice cream treats to all who stop by the lower quadrangle from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, Sept. 26.

Volunteers in Action (VIA) and Volunteers in Service Internationally Or Nationally (VISION), along with Star, raised $461.44 at a Mardi Gras festival held Thursday evening, Sept. 15, in Scooters. The festival featured a Zydeco band, the Cajun Hot Souls, and Cajun food. The money is going to the Red Cross.

Another $560, and some food, were collected at the Johnny Holm Band concert, an annual tradition that the All College Council and Star held in Coughlan Field House Friday, Sept. 16. The money and food were sent to the Red Cross.

If you’d still like to contribute clothing, food or money to the Red Cross, you can drop off your contributions at the All College Council Office on the first floor of Murray-Herrick Campus Center. The ACC will make sure your contribution gets to the Red Cross.

Nearly $2,000 was raised at two Sunday Masses at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. A special collection on Sept. 4 raised $910.56; another $950.50 was raised on Sept. 11.

On the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance last Friday, Sept. 16, those attending noon Mass at the chapel prayed for the victims of Katrina.

Students in the American Marketing Association will sell silicone bracelets over the noon hour this Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Grill and lower quadrangle. The multi-colored bracelets will cost $2 and proceeds will go to the Red Cross. Look for more details in a story in Bulletin Today on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a total of seven undergraduates who had been enrolled in New Orleans-vicinity colleges and universities are attending St. Thomas as “non-degree” students this fall.

They are classified as non-degree students because the idea is that they will not complete their studies at St. Thomas, but will return to New Orleans when possible to complete their undergraduate studies.

One of those students, Laura Beer, is from Minnetonka and was going to be a junior this semester at the Jesuit Loyola University of New Orleans, where she is majoring in business and minoring in art history.

She had been living in her New Orleans apartment for about a week and a half before deciding to leave the city a few days before Katrina hit.

Her apartment is on the second floor of the building, so she is hoping the belongings she left behind will not be damaged by the flood; however, she had to leave her car behind. “I think it probably is ruined,” she said.

“I was one of the lucky ones, though,” she added. “I feel grateful.”

As Rita was approaching the Texas coast last week she found it difficult to watch the news. “I’m just hoping for the best for everyone,” she said.

Beer said she hopes to be able to return to New Orleans when possible to check on her apartment and car, and she is hoping to return to classes at Loyola for spring semester. “I like Loyola a lot, and I love the city. I miss its character; it always seemed so alive, and it was so beautiful there.”

Meanwhile, she is enjoying her temporary stay at St. Thomas. “This school has a good reputation, and its size is similar to Loyola.”

Another Minnesota student whose plans to study in New Orleans went down the drain this semester is Theo Brown of Little Canada. A freshman, he spent five days in a Xavier University dorm that was surrounded by Katrina floodwaters. (An account of the ordeal was featured in the Star Tribune newspaper and can be read at

He and his classmates eventually were picked up by the Coast Guard and dropped off on a dry stretch of Interstate Highway 10. Theo’s dad, Joel, and two of Theo’s best friends from St. Bernard’s High School, headed south in a mini-van to eventually pick him up and bring him back to Minnesota. They used cell phones to keep in touch until Theo was found.

He’s now enrolled at St. Thomas for at least a semester. While here, St. Thomas is matching the institutional scholarship he would have received at Xavier.

Theo’s plan is to return to classes at Xavier, where he has a scholarship to study music. Like students at all of the colleges and universities in New Orleans, however, Brown is taking a wait-and-see approach. Some of the schools were harder hit than others.

Both Beer and Brown keep tabs on recovery efforts at Loyola and Xavier by checking their universities’ Web sites.

“What happened during Katrina seems surreal now,” Brown said. “But it also seemed surreal when it was happening.”

He’s enjoying his theology, English and music classes at St. Thomas. “I’m really enjoying the concert choir. Angela Broeker, the choir director, she’s hilarious.”