August 30, 2014  

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Katrina Research Center Recognizes Edgewater Cleaners for T-shirt Project

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From left to right, Dr. Deanne Nuwer, director for the Katrina Research Center and associate professor of history at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, David Blaine, owner of Edgewater Cleaners in Biloxi, and Catherine Gautier, executive director of Hands On Mississippi, stand in front of a quilt made up of t-shirts from Hands On Mississippi volunteers after their service in rebuilding the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. (Office of University Communications photo by Charmaine Schmermund)

Volunteers, members of the community and representatives of The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast gathered at Edgewater Cleaners in Biloxi June 24 to recognize the business for its contribution to a special project honoring Hurricane Katrina volunteers for their service to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

David Blaine, owner of Edgewater Cleaners, provided free services to clean nearly 200 t-shirts that have been made into two king-size quilts. The t-shirts, adorned with the names of the volunteers who wore them, took two days to clean due to the delicate process needed to preserve the ink and glitter featured on each t-shirt.

“In our time of need, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, seeing volunteers from across the nation roll up their sleeves and offer to help us in any capacity, it just really means a lot,” said Blaine. “These volunteers who don’t know us, they cared enough to come in and help us rebuild our community.”

The volunteer organization Hands On Mississippi collected the shirts from volunteers in 2008. Catherine Gautier, executive director of Hands On Mississippi, was serving as a volunteer for the organization when they were collecting the shirts.

“I think this project is really rewarding because we are recognizing the importance of the work the volunteers did after the hurricane,” said Gautier. “We are remembering the names, the locations and the creativity of the different people involved, and this quilt just pulls it all together. It shows the patchwork representing each individual, but it has come together as one cohesive project.”

After Hands On Mississippi collected the shirts, they were offered as a donation to the university’s Katrina Research Center. After much thought, the center, which collects and preserves physical and virtual accessto documentary evidence related to Hurricane Katrina, decided that the t-shirts should be made into quilts. The design of the quilts allows for them to hang and be easily displayed when traveling to various locations in the community.

“The MS Humanities Council provided a grant to the Katrina Research Center to make the quilts because they recognized the importance of what the volunteers had done here on the Gulf Coast,” said Dr. Deanne Nuwer, director for the Katrina Research Center and associate professor of history at Southern Miss Gulf Coast. “Each quilt cost about $1,100 and we were very specific that the names be visible because the volunteers made each t-shirt unique.”

Currently, one of the quilts is on display at Edgewater Cleaners. The second quilt is on display at the Katrina Research Center, located on the third floor of the university’s Gulf Park campus library in Long Beach.

For more information, please contact the Katrina Research Center at 228.214.3423 or email krc@usm.edu.