Rey: Seven years later, New Orleans is back
Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, stated that New Orleans is back – seven years after Hurricane Katrina’s devastating force inundated the area. Last week downtown hotels were very comfortable, providing guest accommodations to tourists from Kiwanis. Additionally, a single hotel hosted the Louisiana Farm Bureau convention. Convention business is alive and well in New Orleans.
I was in New Orleans last week for the Kiwanis convention, the international gathering of Kiwanis members. This was held at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, a very nice facility to accommodate the Kiwanis family – 4,500 members and guests from around the globe. Circle K International (college) and Aktion Club members joined the Kiwanis organization, as we celebrated many efforts for children, families and communities around the world.
The food, architecture and music was fabulous. The convention opening was a Mardi Gras parade with motorcycle and a full scale marching band – indoors no less. The traditional parade of flags honored the many countries where Kiwanis has a presence.
An overarching theme at the convention was the celebration of 25 years that women have been serving in Kiwanis. Members of the original class of women were recognized with 25-year Legion of Honor recognition. Additional themes of the convention were: Club and district foundations, children and service to children, administration and governance.
Seven tracks for the convention workshops were available to attendees – membership, Service Leadership Programs, leadership education, branded programs and partnerships, online resources, Foundation/The Eliminate Project, and communications.
Service projects were available during the convention:
• Ceiling tile painting: Attendees decorated ceiling tiles with animal designs or scenes. The tiles will be donated to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.
• “Love Knot” blanket project: Kiwanians joined to help create no-sew blankets that will be donated to local charities in New Orleans for children in shelters.
The Circle K (college) convention attendees participated in several Large Scale Service Projects, preceding their convention. The Aktion Club attendees joined in training and leadership workshops.
The local area is served through the Illinois-Eastern Iowa district with clubs in Belvidere, Genoa, Sycamore, DeKalb (2 clubs) and Sandwich communities (Tri County.) These clubs are organized with local volunteers serving children and community needs.
Representatives from DeKalb, Kishwaukee, Sycamore and Tri County Kiwanis clubs were in attendance in New Orleans. The respective clubs were represented by: Bob Hadley, John Rey, Bill Scholl, Tarryn Thaden; Bill and Jennie Cummings, Amy Polzin, Paul Stoddard; Larry and Steph Forsberg, Bob Ogle; and Mark Weinhold.
The center of Hurricane Katrina passed southeast of New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005. Seven years afterwards there are still recovery efforts in the surrounding area. The famous French Quarter dodged the massive flooding experienced in other levee areas.
Mayor Landrieu delivered a welcome speech to the Kiwanis convention, noting that at the time of Hurricane Katrina there were 820-plus restaurants operating in New Orleans. Today there are 1,320. The area is one of the busiest tourists/convention centers in the country. The city is one of the fastest growing in the country.
The Louisiana Superdome was used to house and support some of the residents who were unable to evacuate during the hurricane. Between 80 and 90 percent of the residents of New Orleans were evacuated safely in time before the hurricane struck.
My experience in New Orleans was very comfortable. We did suffer the heat with the rest of the country!
• John Rey lives in DeKalb and is retired from DeKalb Ag/Monsanto. He also has been employed with AXA Financial and Family Service Agency. He continues as an active community volunteer in several organizations. You may contact him at email@example.com.
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