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For immediate release: March 24, 2009


Contact:          Margaret Dubuisson                          Corinne Knight
                        504-592-5691/504-905-1070             504-592-5690/251-591-5378



New Orelans—On Thursday, March 26 at 3 PM, Catholic Charities’ Operation Helping Hands will celebrate huge milestones reached in the ongoing recovery of New Orleans: 20,000 volunteers from all over the globe and 2,500 gutting and rebuilding projects.


            The celebration will be at Operation Helping Hands’ staging area, located in the closed St. Raymond’s Church at

3728 Paris Avenue
. About 150 volunteers will be on hand, as well as homeowners who have benefited from the program, community partners, and staff. Local businesses have donated food, music and other entertainment as part of the celebration.


            The City of New Orleans has issued Catholic Charities a proclamation for the milestones, and First Lady of Louisiana Supriya Jindal has sent a special videotaped message for the celebration. Catholic Charities Co-President/CEO Jim Kelly will also address volunteers and homeowners at the event. A (very brief) thank you program will begin at 3:30 PM.


            Operation Helping Hands began in November 2005, when Catholic Charities brought together volunteers who wanted to help with hurricane recovery to gut and clean out flooded homes. After the gutting phase was over, Operation Helping Hands changed its focus to rebuilding homes in the area.



-          Tom and Kay Conroy are professional painters who sold their Illinois home to volunteer with Operation Helping Helps. After traveling to New Orleans in a Fifth Wheel trailer in November 2007 and staying through April 2008, they decided to return in November of 2008 and are still here today.  Tom and Kay have supervised the painting of hundreds of homes in Greater New Orleans.  Their wonderful attitude and spirit of giving inspire volunteers and help to make the Exterior Painting Program as successful as it is.


-          Mike McDonough, or “Tuesday Mike” has volunteered with Operation Helping Hands every Tuesday since the very beginning.  A retired NASD inspector, he started showing up on Tuesdays in the spring of 2006 and to this day, we can still expect him first thing Tuesday morning.  Mike is from Metairie, where his home was flooded by Katrina.  His hard work and dedication to the operation is something that is very appreciated among the staff at OHH.


-          When Richard Donahue isn’t spending his time volunteering, he can be found teaching high school Social Studies in his hometown of Vienna, Virginia.  Rich, an experienced carpenter, left Virginia to come to New Orleans as an Operation Helping Hands AmeriCorps volunteer in the fall of 2008.   He leads crews from around the country each week, teaching them framing and many other aspects of re-building.


-          With her husband and daughter on dialysis, Lydia Taylor knew she would have to evacuate.  She went to Georgia and when she returned on Sept. 19 she found out her home in Gentilly Woods had water to the roof.  Volunteers from Catholic Charities gutted her home and then later came back to rebuild it.  She moved back home in March of last year with her daughter.  Sadly, her husband didn’t live long enough to see the rebuilt home.


-          The Elliott family—mother, father, and five children—left town and went to stay with relatives in GeorgiaAloma and Lewellyn Elliott are suffering from serious medical issues and meanwhile, the family is living in a very bad neighborhood while their home is being repaired.  They have also been the victims of contractor fraud.  Catholic Charities, along with some volunteers who “adopted the family from North Louisiana,” are working to get the family back home. 


For more information on Catholic Charities’ Operation Helping Hands, please visit



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