Katrina Team in New Orleans

"Who Dat" Colony of Fans at Bucknell, Raising Money for Home-Rebuilding

A colony of the "Who Dat" nation has taken root at Bucknell University in Lewisburg. These students, who were in New Orleans last month as part of the school's Katrina Recovery Team, became quick fans of the Saints football team, which has represented a resurgence of pride for folks in the Gulf Coast region.

Pictured here from left to right are: Danielle Renzi, '10 (not in 2nd photo), Patrick Calamare, '13, Callie Mackie, '13, Katie Smith, '12, Stefan Ivanovski, '12, Heather Wilson, '13, Lucy Christenson, '12, Cara Poli, '12, and Sowande Parkinson, '11.

The students helped homeowners in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward with rebuilding efforts so that more than four and a half years after Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees in New Orleans, residents can have some hope of moving back to their houses and their neighborhoods.

The Bucknell volunteers were in town when the Saints won the divisional title by beating the Arizona Cardinals 45 -14 on January 16. "The excitement in town was just contagious," said Janice Butler, Director of Civic Engagement and Service-Learning at Bucknell, one of the leaders for the trip. "All the students learned the "Who Dat?" cheer and really got into supporting the comeback of the team and the city." The chant is as colorful as the multi-ethnic, multi-class city: Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?!

For an area that has witnessed so much - abolition and civil rights movements, the birth of Jazz and Jim Crow, the devastation of the hurricanes and the failure of the city's evacuation and flood protection system in 2005 -- the Superbowl victory means a lot. "As the coach and players indicated, having this kind of accomplishment shines a light on the spirit of New Orleans," Butler said. The football team that had historically not been a serious contender for years and was once referred to by fans as "the Aint's," this weekend made its first trip to the championship game and won in a dramatic battle of the underdog.

After Hurricane Katrina 400,000 people were displaced and relocated to every state of the country. In New Orleans, in 2010, only about 60% of the population has returned. For those who haven't gone back, the Super Bowl Victory by the Saints was also a sign of hope. "While a lot of progress has been made, there are still people who are living in FEMA trailers or temporary housing and trying to come back home," Butler mentioned. "We hope people understand that the struggle still continues today."

The student-organized Bucknell Katrina Recovery Club has set a goal to raise $12,000 - $15,000 so that they can help one family reclaim their home. Working with the St. Bernard Project, which uses volunteer labor to restore flood damaged homes for homeowners who are elderly or disabled, as well as low-income families with kids, the group wants to make it easier for people to move from the waiting list back to the homes and neighborhoods where they lived prior to Katrina.

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