Oprah’s Angel Network reaches out to Katrina victims

Published: October 10, 2006 | 4902nd good news item since 2003

Oprah Winfrey, thousands of her fans and teams of architects are working to help families rebuild.

Oprah’s Angel Network is paying for the rehabilitation of 70 storm-damaged houses and the construction of four model homes for families who lost everything with a $3 million grant to the East Biloxi Coordination and Relief Center. Architecture for Humanity is designing the models and using other contributions to build a fifth house.

City Councilman Bill Stallworth, executive director of the Relief Center, revealed Winfrey’s involvement with permission from the network.

“She puts her money where her mouth is,” Stallworth said. “I just love that about her.”

The celebrity covers the charity’s operating costs so 100 percent of the donations it receives go directly to relief efforts. The charity has also given the Local Initiatives Support Corporation $2 million to repair, rebuild or build 80 homes in D’Iberville, Miss., and New Iberia, La.

Winfrey helped organize relief efforts immediately after Hurricane Katrina and broadcast her show from Waveland, Miss., on Sept. 7. Representatives of her charity later met with Stallworth and toured East Biloxi. Construction of the model homes is expected to begin in January; some of the rehabilitations are under way.

“We have three homes, one complete and two pretty complete,” Stallworth said. “We are starting a round of another 10..”

Architecture for Humanity was founded in 1999 to promote design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises. In Biloxi, architects were given the task of designing homes that would cost between $90,000 and $125,000 to build. Cameron Sinclair, one of the founders of the charity, said volunteer architects have embraced the task.

“All these families have is the land they own,” he said. “How do you make it financially viable for a family to grow?”

Three models at the relief center show the answers from three firms, MC2, Marlon Blackwell and Studio Gang Architects. MC2, a Houston-based firm owned by two Vietnamese brothers, came up with the “adaptable bungalow,” which combines elements of Southern and Asian architecture. Marlon Blackwell’s “pinecone house” exposes geometric structural supports and an open-air concept. Studio Gang’s “porch dog” looks like a mod beach house.

All will be built on pilings to comply with FEMA’s recommended base elevations. They will go on scattered sites in flood zones, but none will be built near the shoreline where casino companies and land speculators are buying property, Stallworth said. The families selected for the houses represent the diversity of East Biloxi, he said.

Mike Grote, a coordinator with Architecture for Humanity, said it was no easy task narrowing down the applications. The organization has a goal of building two more model homes, but needs funding.

The Relief Center is no longer taking applications for model homes, but it is still taking applications for rehab projects.

Published in Hurricane Katrina
See also: metromix.chicagotribune.com
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