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Non-profits host cultural festival for hurricane victims

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

This weekend, victims of Hurricane Katrina, and other major storms, living in the metro Atlanta area, will have a chance to learn about helpful resources, employment opportunities, listen to zydeco music, and benefit from several relaxation and health technigues.

On Saturday, Oct. 13, from 11 a.m., to 5 p.m., United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta and Wholistic Stress Control Institute, Inc., will host a Cultural Festival for the evacuees of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

The event, which will take place at the Jesse L. Draper Boys and Girls Club in College Park, will offer live, New Orleans-style music, arts and crafts, massage, Tai Chi, as well as information kiosks from local relief agencies and employers seeking to hire displaced hurricane victims.

The event is part of the United Way's metro-wide Building Community Resiliency Program, according to Margianna Langston, statewide manager for disaster preparedness and recovery for United Way of Georgia.

Made available through a grant from the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund, the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta has been supporting local entities in creating unique events to provide aid for hurricane victims.

"Back in May, we were contacted by American Red Cross, primarily for creating summer camps for Hurricane Katrina victims," said Langston. "Different places that deal with evacuees, such as Houston and Baton Rouge, got this money, but were not able to spend it adequately, because they received it so late."

Langston said the left-over money is currently being redirected into programs such as the Cultural Festival, which can address emotional, health, as well as financial needs.

"There are a lot of evacuees on the south end of the city," said Gloria Elder, deputy director of Wholistic Stress Control Institute. "A lot of people are here and they still do not have what they need to move forward. The festival is a way for them to come together."

For those seeking employment, Workforce Development of Fulton County will have booths set up so that people can find out what job opportunities are available.

Those seeking better physical and emotional health will be treated to a wide array of healing methods, such as massage, acupuncture, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong -- an ancient Chinese healing exercise that reportedly lowers blood pressure, and Reiki -- a Japanese healing method that is said to use energy from the hands to detect blockages in the body.

Counselors and traditional doctors will be on site to conduct health screenings and to offer advice to those emotionally affected by the hurricanes.

Families will also be able to enjoy live poetry, positive hip-hop, African dancing and drumming, face painting, moon walks, and other activities.

Elder said that the event is a "perfect fit. They've gone through a lot of stress and they still are," she said. The goal of the festival is "not just to help them, but to also let them know that stress can be managed."

The event is free to all hurricane victims and is accessible by MARTA. The Jesse Draper Boys and Girls Club is located at 1462 East Walker Avenue in College Park. For more information, call (404) 755-0068 or visit www.wholistic1.com.