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The Pueblo Chieftain Online

September 10, 2005

Congressman meets evacuees in Pueblo

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., holds 6-month-old Edward Williams as his father, Ernest Williams of New Orleans, wipes the child's face. Salazar met with families displaced by Hurricane Katrina during a luncheon Friday at Pueblo Community College to offer support.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar on Friday met some families who had been evacuated from Louisiana and some Coloradans who are helping them find new homes at a gathering at Pueblo Community College.

Doug and Pam Sterner, who began an effort to bring families to Pueblo from the hurricane-torn Gulf Coast, were hosting members of four families who already have arrived here, and networking with helpers from Pueblo and other Colorado efforts.

Salazar said, "I'm so impressed by the way the people of Southern Colorado are responding to Hurricane Katrina. This is the largest natural disaster I've seen, but we're all standing shoulder to shoulder to help."

His staffers Sal Pace, Jennifer Barela, Pam DiFatta and Ronnie Carlson are available and working to help coordinate the relief efforts in this area, the congressman said. Salazar noted that Congress has appropriated almost $62 billion for the hurricane recovery, but he said that will only last about a month at the current rate of spending.

"Americans will have to continue to be generous," he said. "We will stand together, and together we will win this fight against Katrina."

Three families who have arrived this week are staying in apartments provided by Chris Swank. One is the three-generation family of Delmy Cuevas, her mother, Bibiana Templet, and daughters Vanessa, 11, and Clarissa, 6.

They left their home in Kenner, La., before Katrina hit, stayed for 10 days at a Red Cross shelter in a church and then were invited to come to Colorado.

Places were offered in other states, but "we picked Colorado," Cuevas said. They drove here in a convoy of seven families.

"We've been given food, shelter, clothes, and McClelland School is giving my daughters full tuition to start school on Monday. We've been so blessed."

Another family in the convoy was Ernest Williams and his three little sons, 6 months to 5 years old.

Williams was a chef in New Orleans, working two jobs, and he said he already has received job offers here, which he's weighing to determine what will work best around his schedule as a single dad. "The money isn't the first thing for me anymore," he said.

Williams also is hoping to cook a fancy New Orleans-style dinner as a benefit for the relief efforts.

Williams spent seven days at a makeshift shelter in Alexandria, La., set up by the manager of a Holiday Inn, and was invited to Colorado by Todd Clevenger of Highlands Ranch, who then led the convoy back to Colorado.

Now watching from a distance the city he grew up in, Williams said, "All these problems were building up down there. The schools in Louisiana opened the week before Katrina hit and they were already laying off teachers because they were $45 million in the hole. Half the people in Louisiana are on welfare or Social Security or some other kind of assistance, so when the hurricane hit at the end of the month they were all out of money. It's more than just the hurricane."

He said the hurricane and the relief efforts might be what the area needs to improve an ugly situation that has existed.

"This is what America really needs, to come together, get along with each other," he said.

Sterner announced that his Home of Heroes relocation program has been inundated with donations of food, clothing, toiletries and household furnishings, but the Palace of Agriculture at the Colorado State Fairgrounds will open early next week as a warehouse where Pueblo donors may take gifts and displaced families can obtain them.

As the people listened to speakers and visited among themselves, Posada's Anne Stattelman talked with Doug Fitzgerald of the city manager's office and agreed that the city government could help immediately with bus passes and cash.

Clevenger and Cullen Canazares of Fairplay, who set up a Web site to help evacuees find homes in Colorado, brainstormed on ways to make their efforts more efficient.

And Swank found kindred dog-loving spirits in the two little Cuevas girls, lining them up to help her walk dogs from the Animal Welfare and Protection Society shelter.


Publish Date Thursday, September 10, 2005
1996-2005 The pueblo Chieftain Online



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