Building ‘hope’ for Katrina victims

Over the last year, many religious congregations in New York have sent youth groups and other delegations to the Katrina-ravaged Gulf. They paint. They build. They talk. They help out in any way they can.

Trips down south have become the social ministry of choice for many.

When the Rev. Chris Mietlowski, pastor of Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church, came back from a journey to Mississippi last year, his son Lucas said something that stayed with him: “After we came back from our trip last year, Lucas wanted us to keep building ‘hope’ for the people we met who lost so much after Hurricane Katrina.”

So on Feb. 10, from noon to 4 p.m., the church will host a community-wide “nail-a-thon” at the Embassy Club in Dobbs Ferry, 60 Palisade St. What’s a nail-a-thon?, you ask. “For every dollar donated to support the people of Mississippi, a nail will be hammered into one of four very large boards (4’x8′). Each board will have one letter spelling the word “H-O-P-E.”

Then, from Feb. 17 to 24, 53 people from four local congregations, including Mietlowski’s, will return to Ocean Springs, Miss. The other congregations taking part are Woodlands Community Temple in Greenburgh, Emanuel Lutheran Church in Pleasantville, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New City.

Donations can be sent to Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church, 43 Ashford Ave., Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522. (Write in note section: “Mississippi trip.”)

For more information, contact Mietlowski at 914-693-0810 (church) or

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.