Anticipating her return to Tulane University in the fall of 2005, Riverside resident Leanne Heine was eagerly anticipating seeing her friends and beginning her junior year. However, Hurricane Katrina roared with a vengeance on the South and made major changes in the lives of many.
For Heine it involved a hasty retreat from the elements and a return to Riverside where she decided her next move, attending Marquette University for one term until Tulane was ready to welcome back its students.
Realizing the devastation of the hurricane and its impact, the congregation of Riverside Presbyterian Church, where Leanne and her family are members, decided to do what they could to assist the people of New Orleans.
Audrey Withers, a member of the church, gathered ornaments the church had commissioned during their 125th anniversary and offered them for sale with proceeds going toward a the relief fund for a Presbyterian church in the New Orleans area.
Eventually, the Riverside Presbyterian Church raised $1,520 which was presented to the St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in New Orleans to be put towards their RHINO project, which stands for Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans, an ambitious project under the guidance of Habitat for Humanity.
The intention of the project is to assist in the rebuilding of homes damaged by the hurricane. The project has grown to include providing housing in the church’s manse for teams who have volunteered with the rebuilding.
The efforts of the Riverside Presbyterian Church were graciously received by the Rev. Donald Frampton of the St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church. According to Mike Heine, as Leanne presented the check to Pastor Frampton and related the story of the ornament sale, it became an emotional moment.
The envelope containing the check also held one of the Riverside ornaments as a symbol of the new friendship between the two churches.
Leanne is back at Tulane, and she and her roommate, Rachel Strom of Dixon, Ill., are volunteering their services in New Orleans while working with a Presbyterian church group from rural Michigan. Their work so far has involved gutting a mold-infested home, one they hope to reclaim as work progresses in the future.
Leanne and her friends are back at school ready for the spring semester, but will not forget the past several months and what happened to their school and the city which had become their second home.
It had been difficult for Leanne to hear and see news reports of the devastation and not be there to help. Since returning, she is committed not only to her studies but to helping those in need in the area. Not all the lessons one learns in life can be found in books or in the classroom.
Readers of the Chicago Tribune (Wednesday, Jan. 11) may have seen a front page picture of Leanne volunteering her services in New Orleans. The picture was included with an article on students returning to colleges in the New Orleans area.
If you wish to send a donation to the St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church the address is 1545 State Street, New Orleans, La. 70118. Address it to Pastor Donald Frampton with a notation it is to be used for the RHINO program. Every penny received goes directly to the program.