In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies sprung into action in service of member paper Gambit in New Orleans. A message board was set up to locate displaced Gambit staff and a relief fund was established to provide assistance to the publication’s — suddenly jobless — employees.
Through its Alternative Newsweekly Foundation, AAN collected $135,558 from member papers, associate members and individuals in a two month span. The contributions AAN received were as unique as its membership:
Willamette Week publisher Richard Meeker . . . express-mailed 525 two-dollar bills to the AAN office last week. Meeker says he began collecting $2 bills a few years ago with the idea that “they should carry some good luck with them.” That way, he explains, when a needy beneficiary came along, he “could hand off the positive juju at a helpful moment.”
The funds were distributed in three payments — $49,000 on Sept. 9, 2005; $48,000 on Oct. 4, 2005; and $38,290 in Nov. 2005 — primarily in the form of direct deposits to the bank accounts of Gambit employees.
On November 1, 2005, Gambit published its first post-Katrina issue (pictured), much quicker than expected. (A website set up for the relief fund estimated that the paper would be unable to publish for “at least six months.”)
Looking back on the effort, AAN’s former Executive Director Richard Karpel says, “The relief effort was perhaps the most meaningful work I’ve ever been involved with. AAN members were incredibly generous, and we were able to quickly send funds to Gambit employees in their moment of need.”
As Gambit marks the five year anniversary of Katrina, the paper’s co-owners Clancy and Margo DuBos have sent the following message to AAN which will be distributed to members in an email today:
On this, the fifth anniversary of America’s worst man-made disaster, we look back with hearts full of gratitude for the selflessness of our fellow AAN members. We can say without hesitation that without AAN, we would not have been able to locate and stay in touch with our staff, and we would not have been able to get our paper back into print as quickly as we did (nine weeks). AAN and its members were a lifeline for us, and we will never forget that.
Katrina brought out the best in good people and the worst in others. We’re proud to say that it brought out the very best in AAN. We look forward to hosting the 2011 AAN convention, and we promise you a host city that is filled with hope, fun and gratitude for all that you’ve done to help us along.
Thanks you, thank you, thank you, AAN!
Clancy & Margo DuBos
August 29, 2010