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Hurricane Katrina: Café with New Orleans ties giving proceeds to Red Cross

Ashley Brenner, 11, was visiting family in New Orleans last month and wanted to stay longer. But as warnings of an approaching hurricane engulfed the city, relatives rushed Ashley to the airport.

“It was in the hour (when) all the highways in New Orleans were slowing down,” said Michelle Douglas, the girl’s mother.

Ashley was on what her parents believe was one of the last flights out, Saturday, Aug. 27. Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast that Monday.

Ashley made it safely back home to Port Orchard and went camping with her parents here the same weekend. When the family returned from camping Wednesday, they had not heard just how bad the Category 4 hurricane’s devastation was.

Michelle’s husband Brandon Douglas is a native of New Orleans. They started attempting to contact his family members in the city hardest hit, but as of Friday had no luck in talking to anyone directly.

“We know for sure his parents are OK, but that’s all,” Michelle said.

Brandon’s parents had managed to make a quick call to other relatives in Dallas, Texas. They in turn contacted Michelle and Brandon. Many other New Orleans family members remain unheard from, though.

Michelle said her brother-in-law, who is in the navy and is working with a clean-up crew in the disaster area, also is out of reach.

“We need to so something,” Michelle said. “How lucky are we to sit here and have clean water.”

Unable to even get heed from their relatives, let alone provide tangible help to hurricane victims, the Douglases are planning on contributing to the relief efforts by donating money to the Red Cross.

Michelle’s Bella Dolce Café in Old Town Silverdale has been closed all last week – because the family was out of town camping for a few days, but also because they were attempting to reach relatives the second half of the week.

The cafe re-opened yesterday and all proceeds from this week will be directly poured into the Red Cross fund.

“Rather than just walking in with a check to the Red Cross, I feel better working for it,” Michelle said.

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