River of Hope VIII Clean Up

Marking the two year anniversary  of Hurricane Katrina,  “A River of Hope” Volunteers makes eighth trip to New Orleans

roh-viiiHurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in the early morning of August 29, 2005, breaking through Mississippi River levees in fifty-three places, flooding nearly 80% of the city.

Two years later, some areas of New Orleans remain devastated and abandoned. There is still a staggering amount of work that needs to be to be done. The “River of Hope” project volunteers responded t this need by returning to New Orleans for an eighth major relief trip, to assist with the rebuilding efforts, over the weekend of September 14th to 17th.

Neighborhoods are still quiet; with unoccupied houses, empty basketball courts and deserted businesses. The nearest grocery store is miles away. Some houses remain un-touched since the hurricane, with furniture and loose boards forming what looks like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle. There are still remnants of the storms furry; street signs down, streets lights dark, empty platforms where houses once stood and stray animals.
2007-09-aWhile one can see that some neighborhoods are beginning to come back to life, the atmosphere as been forever changed. Without the support of their government, community, neighbors and friends, the decision to return can be difficult for many individuals. People are still overwhelmed, they have no where to turn. What went from a tight knit community of homeowners to a recovery zone is still unbelievable two years later.

The “River of Hope” project made a commitment to help re-build in this area. During our trips, our volunteers, including construction workers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers, have gutted over fifty homes, helped re-build five homes for elderly individuals and are currently working on a community mental health resource center, a day care center, a domestic abuse shelter and an adult day care center.

The ‘River of Hope” project intends to make a ninth and final trip to New Orleans over Thanksgiving weekend, 2007.

Donations to “A River of Hope” can be made payable to the Zenith Services, Incorporated Disaster Relief Fund, and all donors will receive a charitable tax deduction receipt in the mail. In order to donate, please contact Cheryl Vennerstrom, at 763-450-5007, or e-mail her at .

All tax deductible donations to the “River of Hope” project should
be made to the:

Zenith Services, Incorporated Disaster Relief Fund
44 North 28 th Avenue, Suite A,  St. Cloud, Minnesota 56303

Two Years Later, New Orleans Residents Still Waiting for Help

The following article, written by Stephen Hage, Chief Administrative Officer for the organization and “A River of Hope” Volunteer, has appeared in a number of publications.

As the flood waters poured into New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, “John” struggled to carry his grandchild to safety. In a sudden rush of water, the child was torn out of his arms and drowned. Since the horror of that day, “John” has had heart surgery, and was supplied with oxygen and a scooter. When he returned to his home, however, there was no electricity to operate the oxygen machine and the government would not provide him with a ramp so that he can get out of his home. Now “John” suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome.

“Mary” lives with the loss of a brother, who had made it to the relative safety of the New Orleans Superdome, but returned when he realized she wasn’t there, only to be drowned in the flood waters. She is traumatized and now too medically fragile to leave her home.

Disasters continue to fill the news. There are the recent stories of the I-35W bridge collapse, and the flooding and loss of life in southern Minnesota. Yet, while we are aware of these local, recent tragedies, we should not forget the significance of August 29th. This date marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a catastrophe that changed one of our country’s great cities and the lives of thousands forever.

After two years, one would assume that all has returned to normal in New Orleans. Most would be shocked, however, to see how conditions in the city remain.

In some cases, the situation is as bad as it was in the days after Katrina. Entire neighborhoods of the city are still abandoned and stand in ruins. Thousands of New Orleans residents still live in tiny trailers, in makeshift trailer parks, or parked on the front lawns of their uninhabitable homes.

People are still waiting for promised help so that they can rebuild and return home. These include the people of New Orleans’s Ninth Ward, a neighborhood of working lower income people. Many were homeowners, who’d lived in their homes for years, some working multiple jobs, but all struggling to get by.

After the hurricane, they faced the hopelessness of destroyed homes, lost employment, collapsed infrastructure and confusing governmental bureaucracy.

There are those, however, who believe that hope remains. One such group is a Twin Cities based, “A River of Hope,” who continue to strive to meet the needs of the people of New Orleans,

“A River of Hope.” was founded by Dr. Rebecca Hage Thomley, and has made numerous trips to the area, sending hundreds of volunteers to work in the neighborhoods most devastated by the storm. These volunteers have included both unskilled laborers who began the initial work on homes and building professionals to have worked to restore the homes. The group has raised and contributed tens of thousands of dollars in order to purchase and ship critical building and relief supplies to the area.

Now the work of “A River of Hope” has expanded to include a free Mental Health Resource Center that the organization established to meet the needs of residents, like “John” and “Mary,” who are recovering from the impact of the hurricane. The center has been staffed by volunteer social workers from Minnesota as well as national mental health professionals.

Information about “A River of Hope” and the Mental Health Resource Center may be found at www.ariverofhope.com.

“River of Hope” Project


Curt Bennett, Ryan Boes, Judy Breyfogel, Scott Carlson, Alicia Corbett, Tim Engstrom, Gina Guggisberg, Jason Hoffrogge, Kathy Holz, Jennifer Jackson, Bill Jeans, Doug Jeans, Jory Jeans, Steve Johnson, Pastor Warren Jones, Jason Kinsella, Steve Kurtz, Jeremy Laberda, Dan Leitner, Ken Lom, Cory Minke, Todd Minke, Sarah Olsen, Gary Sauer, Robert Score, Joseph Stumne, Alexander Thomley, Luke Thomley, Rebecca Thomley, Toni Thulen, Tony Vanelli, Cheryl Vennerstrom


“River of Hope” Project Sponsors

The following agencies and businesses have generously contributed to our “River of Hope” project, and many have done so several times. In addition, hundreds of individuals have given to our efforts as well. We would like to express our gratitude and deep appreciation to everyone whose donations have made our work in New Orleans possible. Thank you!

ABetter Inspection — Blaine

Abrams & Smith – Minneapolis

AC Carlson Appliances – New Hope

Ace Hardware – Long Prairie

Afton Alps — Hastings

Alan Michael Design — Edina

Alpine Capital LLC

Ambiance@53 – Little Falls

Anchor Bank – Wayzata

Anderson Engineering

Apperts Food

Archetype Signmakers — Eagan

Arthouse, Incorporated — Minneapolis

Artistic Stone, Incorporated — Avon

Behind Bars Bike Shop — Minneapolis

Berg Bag Company

Bethel University (Social Work Group)

Builders Association of Minnesota – Saint Paul

Bird Island United Methodist Church

Blaine Jaycees Club

Bookin’ It – Little Falls

Bonanza Restaurant

Buca De Beppo — Osseo

Camille’s Sidewalk Café



City of Bird Island

Copeland Buhl Company

Creative Shears

Crestliner, Incorporated — Little Falls

Crystal Kuemper and Quilters

Curves — Crystal

Daisy a Day Floral and Gift — Sartell

Dan Leitner C.P.A. – Blaine

Davanni’s Pizza – Waite Park

Day Distributing Company – Maple Plain

Dunwoody Institute – Minneapolis

El Loro Mexican Restaurant — Crystal

Emma’s Restaurant & Lounge

Energy Solutions International – Saint Paul

Equinox Creative Production

Evergreen Equipment – Little Falls

Everyday People Store

Faith United Methodist Church

Falls Furniture — :Little Falls

Family Dentistry – Minneapolis

Five Star Heating & Air

Four Seasons Chiropractic — Plymouth

Fun Factory Day Care

Furniture Clearance Center

Geriton Medical Supply

The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company — Minneapolis

Glacier Plumbing — Cedar

Grand Rios – Brooklyn Park

Grumpy’s Bar — Minneapolis

Harding Lastrup Snodusters Club


Hollywood Video – Blaine

House of Pizza — Sartell

House on Crystal Lake

Hunstiger Hillcrest Farms

Indoff – Sauk Rapids

Industrial Metals, Incorporated

Innovative Surfaces, Incorporated — Hastings

Innsbruck Jewelers – New Brighton

Italian Pie Shop — Minneapolis

Jerry O. Parker – Salon Levanté — Minneapolis

Jungle Theater – Minneapolis

Keep In Touch Massage


Kurtile Ceramic Company – Brooklyn Park

Kvasnick Photography – Saint Paul

Lagoon Cinema – Minneapolis

Lava Links — Roseville

Lily Pad Ceramics

Lions Club of Saint Augusta

Local Motion – Minneapolis

Lom Accounting Service

Long Prairie Food Center

Long Prairie Lumber Yard

Long Prairie Packing Company

Loring Corners — Minneapolis

M & I Bank

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Bloomington

Mahowald Insurance Agency

Majors Sports Café

Mankato Truck Repair

Mant’s Bowling

Marco Business Products

Mark VII Distributing – Saint Paul

Minneapolis Floral – Minneapolis

Minnesota Department of Transportation District 3 Employees — Baxter

Minnesota Public Radio

Minnesota Sandplay Therapy Group

New Century Partners — San Francisco, California

Nordic Insulation, Incorporated — Blaine

Nordic Ware

Northeast Tree, Incorporated

Northern PCS Services

Northern United, Incorporated — Little Falls

Northwestern Bookstores – Maple Grove

Nowthen Nursery — Nowthen

Oakridge Elementary

Office Depot

Old Spaghetti Factory — Minneapolis

Olive Garden – Brooklyn Center


Petersen Motorworks, Incorporated

Piazza’s Italian Ristorante

Po-Knee Toys — Wayzata

Planet Beach

Pratt Homes

Priscilla Circle of Linden Hills Church

Professional Looks Etc. Salon

Promotion Resource Alliance

Quality Label


Randall Building Supplies

Red’s Auto – Pierz

Remodelers Choice — Minneapolis

Rick Day Day Distributing Company

Richfield Flowers & Events — Richfield

Robin Lee’s Hallmark — Crystal

Roly Poly Sandwiches — Crystal

Sacred Heart Elementary

Saint Sabrina’s

Salon E!

Salon La Terre

Sherwin Williams

Simon Delivers

Spalon Montage

Spectrum Printing – Little Falls

Spectrum Transportation – Maple Grove

Stems and Vines

Strategic Equipment & Supply – Saint Cloud

Styer Transportation – Lakeville

Salon La Terre — Minneapolis

Sam’s Club – Saint Cloud

Scrapbooks Plus — St. Cloud

Smith Brother’s Decorating Center – Ham Lake

Spalon Montage

Spectrum Transportation

Sweet Taste of Italy — Crystal

The Red Rose — Minneapolis

Theisen Building Supplies – Kimball

Thielen’s Meats — Little Falls

Tech Builders – Fairmont

Time Out Sports Bar

Tires Plus – Blaine

Todaze Hair

Trillium Services – Duluth

Trimpac, Incorporated – Saint Cloud

Twin City Tile & Marble Company – Saint Paul


Victory Auto Service — Blaine

Voyager School


Warner Manufacturing Company — Minneapolis

Western Bank – Mounds View

Yellowstone Quilt