Pay It Forward

Hurricane Katrina survivors thank volunteers by keeping circle of kindness going.

Most of us will never forget the images of Hurricane Katrina that are burned into our memories. One such person is small business owner Anne Dale, of Anne Dale Jeweller in Mandeville, La.

Anne and her family were among the millions affected by Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. All of the members of her family were able to escape the devastation relatively unharmed. One of her sisters had to be rescued by boat; another sister had over 2-feet of water in her home, and Dale’s business was damaged by water. She also had no electricity in her home for over a month and had no water for quite some time.

Nevertheless, the damage did not stop them from lending a helping hand to less fortunate members of the community.

Soon after the Hurricane died down, Dale starting dancing with the idea of creating some jewelry designs to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

It started with a lapel pin that she designed specifically to hand out to some of the heroes of Hurricane Katrina, the first responders. Dale said she initially cast about 17 of the pins and drove to a nearby police station to give them to the police chief.

“As I was driving back to the store, I got a phone call from the Police Chief, Peter Dale,” Anne said. “He told me that he had someone in his office and that this person wanted to buy my Katrina piece. Little did I know, it was Dan Akroyd and he wanted to purchase 500 of them. I told him I could definitely handle that.”

In addition to the lapel pin, Dale designed other jewelry pieces to create an entire New Orleans Louisiana Collection, with which she raised over $175,000 in hurricane relief money.

Dale has since established a collection called “Jeweler for a Cause” which features a growing number of jewelry designs that raise money for a variety of non-profit causes. Among the pieces featured in that collection are the “I Believe” self-esteem pendant, raising money for the Vascular Birthmark Foundation; the Silver Star of Hope pendant and pin, raising money for various soldiers/veterans organizations; and her next, which is an Autism piece.

Dale added that she’s been overwhelmed with the response that she’s gotten from the “cause pieces.” “People would come into the store and there would be a line to buy these pieces,” she said. “Without speaking a word, you look at these people that are coming in and you know they’ve been through it, too. It helps with the healing process as well, as people will stop them when they are wearing the jewelry and ask them what it is. Everyone is always willing to share their Katrina stories.”

Because Amy Sins knows the healing power of food, this Hurricane Katrina survivor felt compelled to bring some Cajun cooking to the victims of the 2008 Midwest flood victims.

Sins led a group of 15 volunteers, calling themselves New Orleans Cooks, from Louisiana to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they were able to serve over 1,700 meals, thanks to over 1,500 pounds of food donated by local restaurants, food manufacturers, grocery stores, and residents.

“We had this great group from a church in Pennsylvania help us gut our home and get back on our feet after the hurricane, so I felt like I wanted to do something to give back,” Sins said.

Before Hurricane Katrina hit, Sins, a cooking enthusiast, spent every Sunday evening eating dinner with her mom and grandparents. Sins said she was devastated by the loss of her collection of handwritten recipes, passed down from family and friends.

“The first thing that I went to look at when we first went back to the house was my cookbooks and recipe cards,” Sins said. “The first ones that I was able to locate were just a disaster. We had so much mud in the house that almost all of them were completely destroyed and not readable. I felt like they were more than just recipes, when you consider that they were written in my grandmother’s and great-grandmothers handwriting.”

Another positive thing that came out of Sins’ Katrina experience is her book, titled Ruby Slippers Cookbook: Culture, Family and Food After Katrina.

“One thing about Louisiana is that everyone has the perfect recipe for something,” Sins said. “I would drive around and ask people if they had any family recipes that they wanted to share. I was fortunate enough to get a lot of really great recipes. The experience for me was really more than just about writing a cookbook; it provided me an opportunity to talk about the resiliency and the kindness of the people of Louisiana.”

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