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Crisis Corps Volunteers Help Open Disaster Recovery Center in New Orleans

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 8, 2005 New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward, one of the areas hardest-hit by Hurricane Katrina, reopened last week, and five returned Peace Corps volunteers — members of the agency's Crisis Corps program — were instrumental in ensuring that the Disaster Recovery Center was operational and open to serve the needs of the returning residents.

Volunteers Hilary Stevens of Sacramento, Calif., Andrew Lucas of Castle Rock, Colo., Bonnie Zogby of Los Angeles, Sam Fontela of Miami Beach, and Matt Gehrke of Lawrence, Kan., were aiding hurricane survivors from the New Orleans area when they were called to assist the Lower 9th Ward Disaster Recovery Center in its first few days of service. These five volunteers helped establish the new center and ensure that displaced Hurricane Katrina victims, eager to return home, were able to do so. Through their efforts, the center is providing information and resources, registering community members in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's system, and tracking claims.

Hilary Stevens assists the residents of the 9th Ward in New Orleans.
Hilary Stevens assists the residents of the 9th Ward in New Orleans.
"During the past three months, returned Peace Corps volunteers have answered the call to participate in Crisis Corps, and to contribute their time and energy to the critical relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region following this life altering hurricane," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. "The opening of the new disaster recovery center in the Lower 9th Ward is a true testament to the dedication and perseverance of our volunteers on the ground."

Stevens, Lucas, Zogby, Fontela, and Gehrke are among 272 Crisis Corps volunteers who have been deployed to the Gulf Coast region to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts through an agreement with FEMA. Although the Crisis Corps has had a strong presence overseas, Hurricane Katrina was Peace Corps' first ever call to duty domestically.

"Although the Peace Corps is an international volunteer organization, our volunteers' spirit of giving clearly has no borders. It was extremely satisfying to see so many returned volunteers selflessly provide their support to the relief efforts. Like their Peace Corps experiences, their time in the Gulf Coast region will come to an end, but their contributions have made a lasting impact," Vasquez said.

Since Crisis Corps' inception in 1996, hundreds of returned Peace Corps volunteers have taken the opportunity to use their invaluable skills and experience to address ongoing community needs in over 40 different countries. Crisis Corps volunteers work on short term projects, utilizing the skills they learned as Peace Corps volunteers and in post service careers. To find out more about the Crisis Corps Katrina efforts, please visit the Crisis Corps section.

Since 1961, more than 182,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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