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Loyola alumna leads volunteers to feed Iowa community coping with disaster

Loyola press release - August 4, 2008

The last thing most Hurricane Katrina victims want to witness up close is another flood, but for a Loyola University New Orleans School of Mass Communication graduate, it’s a chance to bring her disaster healing experiences across state lines.

Amy Cyrex Sins, A’98, author of the Katrina-inspired, Ruby Slippers Cookbook: Life, Culture, Family and Food After Katrina, traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last weekend on a relief mission where she led a group of 220 volunteers, including New Orleans cooks and fellow Loyola graduates George Sins, III, and Elizabeth Brister.

Sins says, “We know first hand how devastating the effects flood waters can have on a community. We wanted to show the people of Cedar Rapids the same type of comforting generosity others showed us after Katrina.”

Because of their efforts, the group was able to serve more than 1,700 meals in less than three days and deliver more than 100 meals to Cedar Rapids neighborhoods. According to Sins, over 1,500 lbs of food was trucked in directly from New Orleans with the help of donations from many local companies such as the Louisiana Fish Fry Company, Zatarains and Hubig’s Pies.

“Thanks to the generosity of New Orleans residents, during our time in Cedar Rapids we distributed almost $1,000 in gift cards directly to flood victims to assist in their rebuilding efforts,” Sins said. “Additionally, members of our team were able to raise about $2,500 and the funds were matched by Cedar Rapids businesses to provide $5,000 to our adopted families through Partnership for Safe Families.”

In addition to serving meals over the weekend, Sins and the New Orleans Cooks worked alongside organizations such as FEMA, Abbey Center, Americorp/Vista and Partnership for Safe Families in clean-up efforts, crisis counseling and assistance with recovery related questions at a resource center for residents.

Volunteers also arranged for four bands to provide musical entertainment for residents: Part of Funk 101, Peter and Lynn Hart, Adam Stomp and Kevin Burt.

“The musicians were gracious of giving of their time and the people really enjoyed the music. The residents of Palo even learned how to second line and throw Mardi Gras beads,” said Sins.

“Based on the feedback and thank you notes, residents of Cedar Rapids and Palo had a fabulous weekend and a nice break from stresses of post flood life. We may have even developed some new fans of Louisiana Cooking!”

Sins was inspired to write her first cookbook after the events of Hurricane Katrina ravaged her home in Lakeview. The cookbook is named Ruby Slippers because in the aftermath of Katrina, Sins wished she could just click her heels together and go home. Sins collected recipes from family, friends and local restaurants to create her book.