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Lutherans Begin 'Dirty Work' in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (ELCA) -- Lutherans hope to help resurrect the city in
three days by doing a lot of dirty work.
They'll work on mudflats to help stop coastal erosion and foster
wetlands recovery. They'll pull weeds and clean up a historic African
American cemetery.
They'll paint schools, clear brush from parks and help rebuild
homes. The list of projects, nearly 200 in all, goes on and on.
The massive effort is expected to involve 37,000 youth and adults
from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). They're meeting
here July 22-26 for the 2009 Youth Gathering.
"For me, it's a gift from God," said Bobbiann Lewis of the New
Orleans area, who has spearheaded local efforts to clean up Holt
Cemetery. "The cemetery is really in bad condition."
Lutherans plan to work at 21 community centers, 5 reading fairs, 7
public parks, 13 churches and 11 organizations building homes.
"The story here is not 'aren't the Lutheran kids cool,'" said Peggy
Contos Hahn, who's coordinating the outreach. "This is not about a gig
for a week."
Hurricane Katrina turned most everyone's life upside down, including
Contos Hahn's. She's an assistant to the bishop of the ELCA's Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod.
"As people of faith we work for justice," she said. "A primary need
here is education. We see a link between this and stamping out the root
causes of poverty and violence."
That's why schools are a big focus of the volunteer efforts, she
said. Youth are working on 82 schools. In addition, every kindergarten-
through 3rd grade student will receive a school supply kit, she said.
Twelve thousand youth and adults are being sent to project locations
each day July 23-25. They'll get there via 300 buses.
The workers will wear orange shirts, tennis shoes and bring their
own bottled water and gloves.
"The people of New Orleans deserve all of our help," said Reba
Burkett, a teen from Verdon, Neb. "Back where I'm from nothing like what
they've been through ever happens. I want to help."
More at on the Web.
Information about the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering is at

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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