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Smith Nurse Aims to Provide Home Away From Home

During the week after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Sue Roach, a nurse in health services, closely followed the reports of the aftermath with an increasing need to help the victims in some way.

“I just wanted to do something,” said Roach, who has worked at Smith for 11 years. “I was absolutely glued to the TV the week after the hurricane. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I’m a nurse, I love people, and I wanted to either bring a family here or help a family on a personal level.”

Within days, Roach teamed with her friend and Northampton neighbor, Jill Lombardi, and the two devised a plan to raise $20,000 to assist two families displaced by Hurricane Katrina’s damage.

They call their project Home Away from Home.

With some 10 other women, Roach and Lombardi went to work getting the word out, printing fliers, soliciting attention from the media, and holding a bake sale early on that raised $650. In only about three weeks, the Home Away from Home project is more than half way to its goal, thanks in part to one anonymous $10,000 donation.

The team has identified the McFarland family and the Rogers family, both from New Orleans, as the recipients of their efforts. The McFarlands include father Edward, mother Destiny (who is due to give birth on October 17), son Marcel, 6, and daughter Ebony, 2. The Rogers are father Marvin, mother Dionne, daughter Kenione, 15 (who is due to give birth this winter), son Kenneth, 11, daughter Cheyenne, 8, and son Nathaniel, 4, who has recently been located after missing for two weeks following the hurricane.

The two families have been living in the Bonita Street House of Hope shelter in Houston, Texas. The Home Away from Home project aims to resettle the McFarlands and Rogers in two apartments, to pay their rental costs for one year, and help furnish both units.

“If we can move these families out of the shelter, then it will make space for other needy families to move in,” says Roach.

Roach hopes this month to take advantage of Smith’s offer to grant up to one week of paid leave for employees who wish to assist in hurricane relief efforts. She plans to travel to Houston to monitor the delivery of funds and donated items to the McFarlands and Rogers, and to assist in moving them into their new apartments.

Home Away from Home is organizing a benefit concert for its cause on Friday, October 21, at the Union Station restaurant, featuring the Michael Hooker Band. Tickets are available for $25 at Coopers Corners in Florence and Dynamite Records in Thornes Market. All proceeds will go to the two families.

For more information or to donate to Home Away from Home, call Roach, 586-5351, Lombardi at 584-1858 or Melissa Ross, 584-7208.

10/4/05

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