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New group striving to raise $2 million
Friday, November 04, 2005 By Michelle Hunter
East Jefferson bureau
Some local business leaders have banded together to help displaced employees of law enforcement agencies and fire departments in the five parishes most affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Friends of the Frontline, a nonprofit organization formed in just four weeks, wants to raise at least $1,000 for every police officer, sheriff's deputy and firefighter who lost everything in the storm.

With an estimated 2,000 displaced first responders, Frontline founder Dennis Pasentine has set a $2 million goal. He said it's crucial to take care of the men and women who stay behind without their families and without their homes, to protect the community.

"This is the group of people that we need to rebuild our city," Pasentine said Thursday afternoon at a reception to formally present the organization to the public. "It would be easy for them to move away. We have to do something to show our appreciation."

The money will be used to help officers in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.

But no law and safety community was hit harder than St. Bernard, where Fire Chief Tommy Stone said not a single home in the parish of roughly 67,000 was left standing.

"We are destroyed," said Lt. Jeff Lee of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office. "But we are still there."

Of the more than 350 employees in the department before the hurricane, St. Bernard sheriff's spokesman Capt. Mike Sanders said only about 160 remain. They work eight-day shifts, living three to a trailer, then are off for four days, Lee said.

"I think it's a great gesture that they would go out and do something like this," he said of Frontline.

Pasentine, CEO of Florida Marine Transporters Inc. in Mandeville, put his money where his mouth was, handing over a personal check for $100,000 to the organization, the first installment of a $250,000 pledge. And he issued a challenge to other business leaders, customers, clients and friends to do the same.

Frontline also is selling purple wristbands to raise money. And the group has organized a fund-raiser with food and music for Nov. 20 at Pelican Park in Mandeville. For more information about donations, buying wristbands or purchasing tickets to the fund-raiser, log on to the group's Web site at

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Michelle Hunter can be reached at [email protected] or (504) 883-7054.
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