Orion Associates, Meridian Services, and Zenith Services sent thirty-five employees and volunteers to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward to help with clean up efforts after Hurricane Katrina, over Thanksgiving weekend, November 25 to 28, 2005.
Our organization has a history of supporting volunteerism in our communities. Marya Hage, our founder, and Dr. Rebecca Thomley, our Chief Executive Officer, have been involved with disaster work through the Red Cross for many years. Both served in New Orleans and Baton Rouge immediately after Hurricane Katrina, to assist with the mental health efforts. As a result of the contacts they made during these trips, and with their leadership, the organization committed itself to help the people of New Orleans.
While we were in New Orleans in November, we worked directly with people in the Ninth Ward, one of the hardest hit areas of the city. Our preparation for this effort included seeking donations of supplies and cash from friends, family and the community. We filled a semi truck with cleaning and building supplies and met the truck in New Orleans. Many people and organizations generously donated money and goods to help fill the truck. We were truly thankful for the support as were the people we met in the Ninth Ward.
During this stay, we gutted six homes, a day care center and a church, so that additional clean up and repair work could begin. We were grateful for the opportunity to help. We gave money to some families and supplies including beds, blankets and clothing to others. Most of the cleaning and building supplies were left for use by the community as they rebuild. The people we met were very thankful as they have had so little support.
While we worked very hard, we left realizing that we had been able to make only a small contribution in the face of such an overwhelming disaster. We made the decision to return as soon as we could.
We intend to fill another truck with supplies and to return over the Martin Luther King, Junior weekend, January 13 to 16, 2006, with the goal of continuing to assist people who need help preparing their homes for rebuilding.
Once again we are relying on donations in order to make this happen. The items currently being requested include: trash bags 3ml; medical masks; tarps; empty gas cans; cleaning supplies; hand sanitizer; paper towels; work gloves; shop vacuums; joint compound; nails; sheet rock; brooms; wheel barrels and shovels. We are also seeking cash donations.
In order to donate, please contact Jill Cihlar, 1-877-656-7466 ext 1101, or at 612-239-6928 or e-mail her at jcihlar@meridiansvs.com.
All tax deductible donations should be made to the:

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

“River of Hope” Project Participants

Jennifer Abrahamson, Penny Archer, Tami Beier, Leota Bemis, Jessica Bergstrom, Alicia Corbett, Jeff Daiker, Alec Demgen, Julia Demgen, Alyssa Dotson, Geo Goglidze, Gina Guggisberg, Jen Haller, Melissa Helmbrecht, Crystal Hillmer, Kathleen Holz, Erin Huldeen, Emily Jeremiason, Pastor Warren Jones, Heather Lauer, Corinne Lozinski, Tammy Maschler, Sara Mosher, Molly Oeffling, Sarah Olsen, Malinda Rundquist, Jenny Schraut, Alexander Thomley, Luke Thomley Rebecca Thomley, Toni Thulen, Jen Van Rooy, Cheryl Vennerstrom, Jody Voges, Sharon Weiss

“River of Hope” Project Sponsors

The following agencies and businesses have generously contributed to our “River of Hope” project. In addition, over a hundred 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!

Abrams & Smith – Minneapolis

Ace Hardware – Long Prairie

Alpine Capital LLC – New Brighton

Anderson Engineering

Apperts Food

Artistic Stone, Incorporated – Avon

Berg Bag Company

Bethel University (Social Work Group)

Bird Island United Methodist Church

City of Bird Island

Copeland Buhl Company

Crystal Kuemper and Quilters

Dan Leitner Consulting

Day Distributing

Equinox Creative Production

Fun Factory Day Care

Furniture Clearance Center

Geriton Medical Supply



Hunstiger Hillcrest Farms

Indoff – Sauk Rapids

Industrial Metals, Incorporated


Long Prairie Food Center

Long Prairie Lumber Yard

Long Prairie Packing Company

M & I Bank

Mankato Truck Repair

Marco Business Products

Minnesota Public Radio

Northern PCS Services

Oakridge Elemetnry

Office Depot

Petersen Motorworks, Incorporated

Promotion Resource Alliance

Sacred Heart Elementary

Sherwin Williams

Spalon Montage

Spectrum Transportation – Maple Grove

Theisen Building Supplies – Kimball

Trillium Services – Duluth

Twin City Tile & Marble Company – Saint Paul

Voyager School


Warner Manufacturing Company – Minneapolis

Western Bank – Mounds View

Yellowstone Quilt

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