in is also a personal cause for SFSU Artist-in-Residence Branford
Marsalis. He and fellow jazz great Harry Connick Jr., both native
New Orleanians, are co-chairing Habitat for Humanity's efforts
to rebuild homes in decimated areas. "I think that with
an organization like Habitat, it can make a very big dent,"
he told Matt Lauer during a September visit to NBC's "Today"
University residence halls
are abuzz with efforts to help the displaced. Residence hall
advisers have organized students to volunteer at Bay Area American
Red Cross chapters, and raised funds through root beer float
sales and coin drives. Freshman Jill Bergantz's volunteer efforts
were inspired by a San Francisco Chronicle story about
quilters. "Even though such horrible things were happening,
people were making beauty come from chaos," she says. "Women
were crafting quilts to send to survivors, and I wanted to help
them do it." Bergantz contacted her residence adviser,
sophomore Kimberly Allen, who bought fabric and organized a
meeting of residents from the Towers at Centennial Square and
Mary Ward and Mary Park halls. Together they cut squares of
fabric and stitched them together. In late September Bergantz
hand-sewed the binding on their first quilt and sent it to the
American Red Cross.
Students Fay Eastman and Sara Henderson decided to send themselves
to the disaster area. The two friends joined other American
Red Cross volunteers in distributing supplies to the displaced
in Beaumont, Texas. Meanwhile, Meredith Duke, the budget coordinator
for SFSU's Academic Resources Department, is on standby with
the organization, awaiting her deployment to the Gulf Coast
region. Duke, who grew up in Alabama, has visited New Orleans
many times. "Loving that city so much, I was heartbroken
to see photos of the devastation … residents on their
rooftops waiting for help … stories of grandmothers and
children disappearing into the deep water which had been their
neighborhoods. I just felt I had to go."
early September, De Tran (B.A., '87), editor and publisher
of San Jose's VietMercury newspaper, flew to Biloxi,
Miss. to serve as a translator in the area's Vietnamese community.
"They are mostly poor folks … a lot don't speak fluent
English," Tran says of Biloxi's estimated 2,000 displaced
Vietnamese, many of whom worked in the fishing industry and
lost jobs and homes to Katrina.
never seen anything like that in my life … everything
wiped out. The destruction was unimaginable," Tran says.
The people he encountered on his trip were no strangers to difficult
times. A large population of residents fled to the Gulf Coast
following the Vietnam War. "I think the most heartbreaking
thing was that for many people who lost everything, this was
the second time in their lives this had happened," Tran
As translator, he assisted residents with filling out forms
for FEMA and he also lent a hand to the rebuilding effort. Tran
tore out sheet rock to prevent mold in Biloxi's Van Duc Buddhist
Temple, which sustained a great deal of water damage but remains
standing. In the weeks following Katrina, some 200 residents
found shelter in the temple while others remained adrift on
Some of the people SFSU
has helped are right here on campus. The University has offered
students whose academic lives were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina
a chance to continue their education, and enroll even without
transcripts, and pay only in-state fees. To date, seven evacuees
from the Gulf Coast area have enrolled in classes on campus,
including Jonah Purinton.
In August, a day and a half before Hurricane Katrina hit the
Gulf Coast, Purinton, then a junior college student in Gulfport,
Miss. reluctantly threw a few shirts into a bag, hopped in his
car and drove away from Katrina's projected path. In Miss.,
he had grown accustomed to frequent storm warnings and he expected
to return to Gulfport in a few days. When he reached Jacksonville,
Fla., he turned on the television news and saw that his town
Leaving his home and friends hasn't been easy, but Purinton
is grateful to SFSU for helping him reconnect with his education.
"People here have been really nice; they really helped
me out," he says, pointing to Ernie Scosseria, associate
director of undergraduate admissions, who expedited his admissions
process, explained financial aid options and identified classes
with available space. Purinton also appreciated the efforts
of Rob Strong (B.S., '84; M.B.A., '90), general manager
of the SFSU Bookstore, which provided Purinton with a full scholarship
for his textbooks and school supplies.
Approximately 600 families who
were forced to leave their homes throughout the Gulf Coast region
made their way to San Francisco in the weeks following Katrina.
Brian Cahill (M.S.W., '68), executive director of Catholic
Charities CYO, worked with partners throughout the city to provide
at least half of these families with counseling services and
support. His team helped arrange transportation to hospitals,
pharmacies and hotels and provided bus and airline tickets to
those who needed to reunite with family far away.
Ken White (attended '75–'78) is helping the furry
and four-legged hurricane survivors. The president of the Peninsula
Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals has been working 70-hour weeks since the first batch
of orphaned animals arrived on the organization's doorstep mid-September.
White's staff has taken in 74 dogs, six cats and two rabbits.
Many are being housed in a temporary shelter that White's staff
erected in the parking lot. They will continue to accommodate
as many pets as possible. "If we end the year in a deficit,
then we'll end the year in a deficit," White explains.
"We're going to do the right thing." To date, the
organization has helped seven dogs reunite with their owners
while 500 volunteers have expressed interest in housing other
Gaidano (attended '62–'64) and Jay Hagan (B.S.,
'83) have been helping people reconnect in a more literal
way. They head DriveSavers, a Marin County company with a track
record for recovering seemingly lost data from damaged hard
drives and storage media. In September the two alumni announced
they would waive one-third of their data recovery fees to help
people who lost critical files in floodwater throughout the
Gulf Coast region.
At least 10 damaged hard drives arrive at company headquarters
each day. Sometimes it's strictly business. Other times, as
was the case with one elderly couple in New Orleans, the reasons
are personal. The couple returned to their home to find a laptop
computer containing a tremendous number of family photos submerged
four feet underwater. DriveSavers recovered all of the images.
"Many of these computers have been underwater for more
than a week so they're very corrupted," Gaidano says, pointing
out that one in six are heavily damaged and require complex
work that can cost as much as $5,000.
The company has slashed its recovery fees during other difficult
times including the Sept.11 terrorist attacks. "We do take
quite a financial hit by helping out," Gaidano says, but
considering the company's headquarters rest on the edge of a
large pond held back by levees, he adds, "I like to think
of it as money in the karma bank."
more information: www.sfsu.edu/~urbins/katrina