Following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, NAAWS and ACA led a fundraising effort to aid the victims of that terrible storm. The Correction Peace Officers Foundation was right there with many other organizations from across the country including the Association for Women Executives in Corrections. Over $180,000 was raised from around the country with the Michigan Department of Corrections leading the way. Even inmate groups recognized the enormity of this cause and contributed their funds to assist the people of Louisiana. The money raised was donated to a Louisiana Department of Corrections employee committee, formed by then Director Richard Stalder, to assist those who lost so much. About a year later it was obvious that many in the communities ravaged by Katrina were still suffering. Some NAAWS members asked what else we could do to help. It was quickly decided that we wanted to help the children impacted by the storm by rebuilding their parks and playgrounds. A committee to accomplish this mission was formed and Make-A-Smile was born.
An abandoned city park was identified in the 9th Ward of New Orleans and NAAWS members responded by raising money and volunteering to help. When we learned that two more parks, one in Moss Point, Mississippi and one in Bogalusa, Louisiana also were in dire need of help, then NAAWS President Mark Saunders said let’s restore all three and we did. In the years that followed, Make-A-Smile subsequently helped communities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Nashville, Tennessee, after both cities also suffered devastating floods.
Make-A-Smile is a 501c3 charity and, as such, your donations are tax deductible. Donations may be mailed to the following address: Make-A-Smile, PO Box 503, Collingswood, New Jersey 08108
For additional information, to volunteer or to make an online donation, please visit our organization’s website:
For our ten year anniversary Make A Smile went back to Louisiana!
During the first week of October Make A Smile Volunteers descended on Louisiana. A year and a half before devastating floods had struck a wide path from Baton Rouge throughout the countryside. For Make a Smile it was a ten-year return to Louisiana as they had been there 10 years before building and restoring 3 parks after Katrina. This time there were 2 communities chosen who needed help.
The first community was Albany, which is a small town east of Baton Rouge. There had never been a town park in Albany until 2 high school students took it upon themselves to petition the community and then the school Board to give them land. They created a website and started to raise money. Then the flood hit and everything stopped. Kay Landry, a local real estate agent, kept the dream alive. Warden Bobby Tanner from Rayburn Correctional Center and his crew of Correctional Officer Staff have been on every Make A Smile project across the country. This time they were less than an hour away and they came in to build a new bathroom building. Make A Smile Volunteers from around the country, Prison Wardens, Supervisors, Line Staff and Retirees, built a new playground and put together equipment that had been previously purchased. The community welcomed Make A Smile with open arms supplying meals, a place to stay and volunteers. Students from the High School jumped right in. The Town Maintenance Department and the Mayor were very supportive. In two and a half days Albany had a new park!
From Albany Make A Smile Volunteers drove to the town of Clinton, which is less than an hour away. Sheriff Travis, a former Louisiana Warden and a NAAWS member, asked for help on an old park that the flood just made worse. The Mayor, Lori Ann Bell, who lives near the park, welcomed Make A Smile with open arms. Warden Jason Kent from Dixon Correctional Institute was tremendous in that his facility housed, fed, and supported the volunteers. He also spent 3 days working on site building baseball dugouts for the kids. He was great! Make A Smile volunteers installed a new playground, restored a small building which houses bathrooms and storage, built new baseball dugouts, restored the baseball diamond, painted fences and equipment and gave the park a general clean up. Neighborhood adults and kids jumped in to help and could not wait to use their restored park.
With out the support of James LeBlanc, Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary, and the support from staff we could not have accomplished these 2 projects. Donations from around the country allowed for the purchase of new equipment for both parks.
Make A Smile Volunteers happily finished their week long work then attended the Rodeo at Angola Prison. Eight days after arriving in Louisiana they went home knowing that they had helped children and families from 2 communities! These volunteers, who selflessly give of their own time and talent, understand that we are successful if we can prevent one child from coming into one of our places.
Make a Smile goes into communities to help restore their parks and playgrounds after a natural disaster. When communities are trying to recover often times parks and playgrounds have to wait.