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Briarcliff Project Relief Finishing in New Orleans

"Project Relief, a group of about 40 people from churches in Briarcliff, Scarborough and Peekskill are sending daily dispatches from their week volunteering in New Orleans. See all the Project Relief stories . "

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. - Westchester's Project Relief team, which was formed in part by Briarcliff locals, helped rebuild a community garden, made repairs to a New Orleans church and are finishing up dozens of other projects at several New Orleans centers devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Project Relief members are set to finish up work Saturday and head back to their Westchester area homes.

Ossining Project Relief volunteer Gae Savino, who led a group at the ARC of Greater New Orleans, wrote about the group's hard work this week:

"(Volunteers) dug two beds to be prepared for planting vegetables that are sold weekly at the local farmer’s market, raising financial support for the operations of ARC of St. Bernard’s community garden."Five people transported 30 to 40 wheelbarrows filled with cement chunks, rocks, gravel dirt, clay, sand, and sea shells. The group made 65 to 70 trips loading and unloading the wheelbarrows during the morning. As a result of this labor, the Center now has 16 new planting areas on each side of the parking lot which will be used to plant fruit trees.

"(They also) planted 35 tomato plants and installed a trellis (and) weeded the leek-carrot vegetable bed. We also planted flowers around the Sacred Heart statue at entrance of former church and spread mulch."We worked very, very hard today!"

Project Relief chaperone Amy Ludwig, from Briarcliff Manor, wrote about the group’s progress at City Park:

"Today about 25 of us worked at City Park in New Orleans. For a comparison, Central Park in New York City is about 800 acres and City Park in New Orleans is 1300 acres. The operating budget is $11 million, but they only receive $2 million in funding and the rest is made from fundraising. They get about 45,000 volunteers a year to help maintain the park.

"Before Katrina there were 200 park employees, but now due to funding there are only 85. About 99 percent of all the school districts use the parks for their athletic fields. They have canoes and ropes courses. We spent the morning moving mulch in wheelbarrows and laying it down along some of the trails. After a quick lunch we went out to a different area and weed whacked, clipped and sawed to clear some new trails."

Project Relief began five years ago when local Briarcliff youths told adults from Briarcliff Congregational Church, Scarborough Presbyterian Church and Peekskill Presbyterian Church that they wanted to volunteer their time to help repair the City of New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane.

Project Relief Director Peter Clements, from Ossining, said earlier that 26 students and adult members raised about $42,000 to make the trip to spent their entire winter break from school volunteering with local New Orleans organizations to rebuild houses. Project Relief members come from all over the Westchester area including Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Millwood, Yorktown, Peekskill and Scarborough.

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