The costliest hurricane in U.S. history also took its toll on the bridge organizations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The storm surge and high winds not only destroyed or damaged the homes and work places of bridge players, but also the buildings that housed their games.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Unit 180 not only lost its bridge club, but also about 30% of their membership due to displacements. They are currently looking for a site further from the beach on which to build a new clubhouse.
The New Orleans’ group reports that their club games are back to about 60% of the attendance they had prior to the hurricanes. They have decided to renovate, rather than tear down, their clubhouse. Target date for completion is June 2006. Estimated costs approximate $250,000.
The Lake Charles Bridge Club experienced about $100,000 in damage. They were able to save all the tables, chairs, and computers, but it still rains inside their clubhouse, so the carpet and roof need to be replaced.
Shortly after the hurricanes, the District 10 Board of Delegates, established a fund, the Rebuilding Bridge Fund (“RBF”), to help rebuild bridge in the affected areas. The RBF is financed by contributions from individuals and bridge organizations across the country, beginning with $20,000 donations each from District 7 and the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference. As of March 15, 2006, slightly more than $88,000 have been contributed to the fund. To date, approximately $14,000 has been given in grants, mostly to replace supplies, equipment, and temporary rental space for club games. Some requests have been delayed pending settlement of insurance claims. In order to replace the players that have been permanently displaced, it is contemplated that some future grants from the RBF will go to meet bridge teaching needs. It will take years for these bridge organizations to get back to the membership levels they were prior to Katrina.
In February 2006, Claire Chisler, newly-elected President of District 10, appointed Chuck Wilkinson of Jackson, MS to administer the grant requests to the RBF. He takes over from Janice Van Dyke of Memphis, TN, retiring D-10 President, who conceived the concept of the RBF, and guided it through the initial months of operation. District 10 is deeply indebted to her for her able leadership through a very demanding period.
Bridging Katrina will require lots of time. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Unit has notified District 10 that it cannot find available facilities to hold the January 2007 regional in Biloxi, MS. Accordingly, the D-10 Executive Committee has voted to move that regional to Jackson, MS on the dates of January 8-14, 2007.
Send contributions to: Rebuild Bridge, c/o Chuck Wilkinson, 1806-B Saint Ann Street, Jackson, MS 39202-1257.