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USA: Survivors and CRWRC volunteers mark 3-year Katrina anniversary as Gustav approaches

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GulfCoastresidents marking the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina today are preparing for the possibility that tropical storm Gustav will make landfall there early next week. Nearly 5,000 Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippiresidents will be boarding up homes repaired or rebuilt after Katrina through CRWRC Disaster Response Services (DRS).

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (www.crwrc.org) is a disaster relief and development organization that has been active - and still is -- in New Orleans and surrounding areas affected by Katrina since the catastrophic day the levies broke three years ago.

"Thousands of CRWRC volunteers have built new homes, gutted damaged houses, replaced roofs, ripped out and re-installed drywall, and painted homes that were damaged or destroyed by Katrina," says CRWRC-DRS director Bill Adams. "In one recent project, hundreds of volunteers and groups participated in a "Home-building Blitz" to build ten 900-square foot homes in a year's time for families displaced by Katrina."

CRWRC-DRS volunteers are working in several New Orleanslocations this fall - St. Tammany and Saint Bernard, and Orleansand Jefferson Parishes - in addition to Lake Charles, Louisiana, which was hit by both Katrina and Rita.

To date, nearly 5,750 CRWRC volunteers from the US and Canada have given more than a half-million volunteer hours to assess damage, clean up flood debris, demolish, repair, and reconstruct homes in the three-state area impacted by Katrina. CRWRC has also provided grants for local Long-Term Recovery Organizations (LTROs) as part of its response, putting responsibility for recovery into the hands of local communities while providing accountability.

Over the last three years, CRWRC has participated with The Center on Philanthropy, from Indianaand PurdueUniversities, which is tracking more than $3.5 billion in private donations given for Katrina and Rita response to non-government organizations.

CRWRC has expended $5 million in Katrina response and anticipates continuing rebuilding activities there well into 2009, with nearly $1 million in additional services. The bulk of the response has gone for housing rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The potential impact of tropical storm Gustav can affect the extent of those plans. Fred Visser, a volunteer regional manager for CRWRC-DRS, just returned from the Belle Gladearea of Florida. There, CRWRC-DRS crews are adding Hurricane Fay to ongoing rebuilding efforts after Hurricanes Jeanne, Francis and Wilma in 2004 and 2005.

Visser is monitoring Gustav as it gains strength this weekend. "We're keeping in touch with contacts on the Gulf and will be ready to go," he said.

DRS, whose volunteers are known as "the green shirts" on disaster sites around North America, is a ministry of CRWRC that targets disaster survivors who are without insurance, elderly, disabled, and who don't qualify for government or other assistance. CRWRC served 1.5 million of the world's poorest at-risk communities in 2007 through emergency disaster response, community development, and justice education.

Members of the Press wishing to interview Bill Adams, DRS director, can call, cell 616-560-2782. Those wishing to speak with DRS regional volunteer managers, Fred and Mary Visser, or USmedia contact Beth DeGraff can call, cell 616-648-7821 to arrange interviews.

For more information about CRWRC's Disaster Response Services and Hurricane Katrina response, visit www.crwrc.org or call 1-800-55-CRWRC. Mailing address in the U.S. is CRWRC, 2850 Kalamazoo SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560-0600.