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Still recovering from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina two months ago, employees of the Washington Correctional Institute (WCI) just north of New Orleans will be getting a boost from the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti announced today.
"When we heard of the disaster in New Orleans, my staff and I knew immediately that we wanted to help," Bellotti said. "But, I wanted to be very specific in our efforts."
Bellotti quickly identified a "sister facility" in the hard hit area of Washington Parish.
"While their personal lives were in serious disarray, the 418 employees of the Washington Correctional Institute kept their facility running safely and securely, handling a population of 1,100 inmates in the aftermath of one of the biggest natural disasters in U.S. history," Bellotti said.
The Category 4 hurricane that barreled through Washington Parish, Louisiana on Aug. 29 cut a swath of destruction that leveled homes and disrupted electricity and water supplies.
The employees of the Washington Correctional Institute were no exception.
Though the correctional center was mostly unscathed, many of the employees' homes were demolished or severely damaged and some employees lost contact with family members who joined an estimated 1 million people displaced by the storm.
"It was a no-brainer," Bellotti said. "We were going to reach out - one correctional center to another. It made perfect sense. It was our way to help."
In just seven weeks, Bellotti's office filled two 200-square-foot storage bins with donated clothes, canned goods and toiletries, and also sold Katrina Relief shirts and hosted a charity golf tournament, raising more than $20,000 in all.
"I couldn't be more proud of everyone at the sheriff's office," Bellotti said. "We all came together in a short amount of time and accomplished a great thing. I know the staff at the Washington Correctional Institute is very grateful. We wish them the best."

All donations will be delivered to the Washington Correctional Institute within the next few weeks and all proceeds will benefit the WCI Employee Fund.
"The outpouring of concern and help from sister facilities from throughout the country has been amazing," WCI Deputy Warden Robert Tanner said. "I don't know how to express our appreciation. But it sure is good to know that other professionals from across the country recognize our plight and are willing to step up and help out in a time of need. It truly has been great."
 
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