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Disaster Relief Fund: Messages of Thanks from our Members

No one at AFT imagined that our displaced Gulf Coast members would find the resources to practice the almost-forgotten art of the "thank-you" note. But since the AFT Disaster Relief Fund began to send out $500 grants, thank-you notes have poured in to AFT secretary-treasurer Nat LaCour's office from AFT evacuees. Below are excerpts from some of those messages:

Mr. LaCour, words cannot express the feeling of gratitude I had when I went to the mailbox and a check from the union was there.  I worked in the New Orleans Public Schools for more than 17 years, and I remember when you were our union president.  I was on strike in 1990 when "UTNO was mighty."  You are still fighting for teachers, and we want you to know that we appreciate it.  Even though our city has been devastated by two storms [and] our school district in Orleans Parish has been restructured, it's good to know that somebody still cares for the teachers. On behalf of the many educators who have lost the majority of their personal possessions, I want to say thank you to you and the AFT for being there when we needed you the most. —Jefferson Parish, La.

Thank you very much for the $500 from the AFT Disaster Relief Fund. It has been a great help. I lost everything. Please excuse the "stationery." I evacuated to Florida and have no access to the Internet. Hopefully I will soon hear from FEMA about placing a trailer on my destroyed property. Before Katrina, I was a fifth-grade teacher at Hynes Elementary School. I love my job! Right now, New Orleans is in need of more (or should I say better) leadership and less bureaucracy. No one seems to understand that in order to rebuild New Orleans, we MUST start with the schools! I do know what it means to "miss New Orleans," my school and children. Destin, Fla.

I have been teaching for 24 years. I never dreamed that I would ever be in this much need. It has truly been a horrible experience. [During Katrina] my husband and I stayed in our home and we were forced to flee to our attic to escape the storm surge that flooded our home with eight feet of water. When the water receded, we were left with only the clothes on our back. All of our belongings and assets were gone. However, in the aftermath of this terrible storm, we have experienced the most wonderful outpouring of love and support from all over the nation. Gulfport, Miss.

Your check came just in the nick of time, since I had exhausted most of my personal funds and was facing a number of bills. New Orleans Public Schools seem to be in an uneasy state of transition, but I have every intention of returning to New Orleans and the public school system. Baton Rouge, La.

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for the recent check to assist my family in this horrific time of need. You'll never know how much it means. I'm still looking for a job. New Orleans teacher

I have finally re-located to Mississippi and at the present time have not returned to working, so the money has come in real handy. Thanks again for the help and thoughtfulness our organization has shown to those of us who lost so much. Columbus, Miss.

Thank you for the check from the AFT Disaster Relief Fund. It will certainly assist me during this time when, as a teacher in the New Orleans Public Schools for over 30 years, my dedication and sacrifices of time, money and teaching expertise have been ignored. I am proud to be a member of UTNO. Houston, Texas

I would like to thank you as well as all of my fellow brothers and sisters of the AFT for the generous gift you have shared with me and others like me who have lost homes, schools or teaching resources acquired form many years of teaching. Words cannot describe the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina and words cannot express the depth of gratitude we all feel to those who have reached out to us and showered us with so many student supplies, teacher supplies, new resources and money donations. Long Beach, Miss.

"I moved to the city from Tennessee 24 years ago because I was drawn to its diversity and challenges. I loved working with my students ... As I read the daily newspapers from New Orleans, I am disheartened to realize how little respect the school administration has for its teachers. As the schools begin to reopen, it is clear that the contract is not being honored and teacher hiring practices have been tainted by nepotism. Every daily newspaper seems to contain news reports about the schools that end up leaving me depressed. That's why receiving the AFT check means so much to me. At least the union has not forgotten that teachers are human with financial needs. Your check has reminded me that my decades of contributions have not been forgotten." New Orleans teacher

"This money is going to help me get my life back. EVERYTHING has been taken from me, including my spirit of hope. This kind of gesture is greatly appreciated." New Orleans

Many thanks for the monetary assistance sent to me in my time of need. Please thank all of the AFT members who helped the teachers and paraprofessionals of the Gulf Coast areas. As my house is unlivable and there is such a shortage of housing, I have to commute [to work] two hours  per day. Therefore I have to get up at 5 a.m. and usually get home between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Even though the last estimate given to repair my home is now set at $90,500, I feel very lucky to have been able to salvage so many of my possessions, especially when I see television coverage of our neighbors in Cameron Parish, who have lost everything they own. It could have been so much worse for me and my family. Jennings, La.

"I am very grateful for the assistance you have provided for me and my family. May God bring a special blessing upon our union family." —Pineville, La.

I just received the check from the AFT Disaster Relief Fund. Thank you SO much for your concern for all of us who have been affected by the human tragedy of the hijacking of the New Orleans Public Schools. New Orleans

I am very grateful that our union and its members were so kind to help those of us who have been affected by Katrina. My family and I suffered quite a big of damage, and I also lost much of my educational resources. I'm a music teacher, and I lost sheet music, scores and CDs. This donation will be very helpful. God bless you. Gulfport, Miss.

My husband and I sincerely appreciate the $500 you sent. I promise we will put it to good use, as we lost everything in Katrina.  I have been a member of our local AFT for almost 30 years and am proud of my association. —Long Beach, Miss.

Hurricane Katrina has put such a strain on all of us on the Mississippi coast, and the money will be put to immediate use (roof repairs). Biloxi, Miss.

"My house needs to be gutted to the studs. Every penny of what you sent will be put to good use." Metairie, La.

"I wanted to contact you and let you know how grateful we are for the $500. I also wanted to attach a picture of our house so you could see that the money was definitely needed and will be used in the search for our new home. Again, we appreciate the help." Port Arthur, Texas

January 26, 2006