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Boonsboro grad lends helping hand in Hurricane Katrina relief

August 18, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

NEW ORLEANS - Almost a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Bethany Windle is hard at work gutting New Orleans houses so they can be rebuilt.

Windle, a 2001 graduate of Boonsboro High School, thought she wanted to be a lawyer. She worked in the District Attorney's office in Hagerstown and "fell in love with it," she said.

After graduating from the University of Maryland in December 2004, Windle, 24, moved to San Diego and worked in a law firm.

While she loved the work, the busy lifestyle wasn't for her, Windle said.

"I started to question whether I wanted to be an attorney," she said.

Windle said she wanted to serve others, but was not interested in the military, so she looked into the service program AmeriCorps as an option.

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One month into her 10-month AmeriCorps commitment, Windle said that ripping out floors and scrubbing away mold inspired, perhaps, a new direction.

Windle now is considering nonprofit management.

"I can't imagine someone being in this program and not volunteering after," she said. "They seek to instill (service)."

AmeriCorps volunteers serve 10 months in the federal program and log 1,700 service hours, according to a press release. In exchange, volunteers receive $4,725 to help pay for college or to pay off school loans.

Since September 2005, AmeriCorps volunteers have logged more than 717,000 hours of service on the Gulf Coast doing Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery.

For the two months she stays in New Orleans, Windle is living in a room with 50 sets of bunk beds at a Methodist Church. After a two-month stay in New Orleans, Windle and her team will move on to a new project.

As youth groups and church groups from all over the country travel to New Orleans to help with relief, Windle and other members of her AmeriCorps team take them out into the city and show them how to rip up houses and eradicate mold.

The houses must be gutted before they can be rebuilt, Windle said.

She never visited New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, but said that the French Quarter still is "very nice," while other parts of the city are "just gone. You see foundations and steps, and that's it."

In the areas where her AmeriCorps team is working, the damage was minimal, so the houses can be salvaged. People are returning to the city, however, and crowding into these areas, so there is a lot of crime, she said.

Her mother, Christine Windle, lives in Hagerstown, and her father, Scott Windle, in Hedgesville, W.Va.

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