PUBLISHED: 2:07 PM on Wednesday, October 26, 2005
After the storm
Third Gulf Coast family relocates to Juneau with help from Love INC

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Donnyel Burras enjoys cooking a meal in the apartment Love INC helped provide after the family lost its home in New Orleans. Her husband LaTroy Burras holds the couple's month-old baby Kala, who was born a week after Hurricane Katrina.
It has been a wave of emotions for the Burras family, who moved to Juneau last week to leave behind their hometown of New Orleans.

"It feels good to have a fresh start," said Donnyel Burras as she left the airport in Juneau to go to her apartment.

Donnyel and her husband LaTroy arrived with month-old daughter Kala, who was born a week after Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast. Donnyel had been to Juneau before to visit her aunt and said she wanted to return.

"I kept telling my husband we should move up here and he said we couldn't just pick up and leave everything behind," Donnyel said. "After Katrina came we didn't have anything left."

LaTroy said he is still getting used to the weather but has enjoyed being Alaska thus far.

"It's a nice experience that I've never experienced before," LaTroy said.

"It didn't take too much to get me convinced to come up here and have a fresh start."

The local Love INC chapter helped the Burras family with their flight to Juneau, provided a furnished apartment for three months and provided some food and baby items. Love INC, which stands for Love In the Name of Christ, is a national Christian outreach program.

  Donnyel, Kala and LaTroy Burras
Timothy and Fritzie Williams and their two children of Biloxi, Miss. and Rod Chandler of New Orleans also have moved to Juneau with the help of Love INC.

"The Katrina relocation effort was done as part of the mayor's task force. They have asked us to help and we were well positioned to do that," said David Eley, board president of Love INC.

"We've had over 100 people volunteer to help these families."

Eley said the outreach program is funded by local churches and individuals and provides help for the homeless and others in need.

"We're always taking donations. There's always a need," Eley said.

The Burrases said Love INC has been helpful in not only placing them in Juneau but providing items needed for their newborn.

"I had to stay calm after the hurricane because I had this baby coming but I didn't know what to do," Donnyel said.

"All of my baby stuff was gone. I felt so ashamed because I'm her mother and I'm supposed to take care of her."

Donnyel said it has been difficult for her to accept charity and use food stamps since the hurricane.

"I had always been taught to work. We didn't have much back in New Orleans but what we had was ours. We worked really hard for everything we had," Donnyel said.

"I loved to thrift shop back home, but when I had to go to the Salvation Army to find clothes and baby items just to get by it just tore me up."

The Burrases said they are grateful for all that has been provided for the family until they can get on their feet.

"You just never think you're going to be at that point, especially when you're working," LaTroy said.

The couple, along with Donnyel's relatives, went to Mississippi two days before the hurricane hit New Orleans.

"If it had been up to me we would have stayed. They always say a hurricane is going to hit New Orleans and it usually curves and goes somewhere else. Donnyel had a feeling it was going to hit this time and we had the baby coming so we left," LaTroy said. "It's amazing how things can change in the blink of an eye."

Donnyel said that after the hurricane her family was hopeful that their homes were intact.

"I knew from looking at the TV that everything was gone, but I tried not to say anything because my mom still had hope," Donnyel said.

"One day I looked at the front page of USA Today and saw my mom's neighborhood with water all around it. We noticed things that looked familiar and counted the houses down the street and there was my mom's house and it was underwater."

LaTroy said he knows their family will always be there for them, but leaving friends behind was tough.

"We all grew up together and have known each other for 20 years or more. You can't just go over to someone's place and talk about old times or hang out. But maybe one day we'll be able to do that again," LaTroy said.

"It's going to be a while to get used to this new place but we moved because we had to. God has a purpose and a plan. It could have been worse. I couldn't imagine living in a shelter like some people had to do. Everything was like living in another country. You see that stuff on TV."

Donnyel said she feels safe and comfortable in Juneau and was excited about moving.

"We didn't live in a bad neighborhood in New Orleans but we locked the doors," Donnyel said.

"We went to the grocery store the other day and LaTroy told me to lock the door to the car and I just laughed. If someone took the car, where are they going to go?"

LaTroy is looking for work, preferably as a counselor to teenagers.

"I like working with teenagers and the kids can't be any worse here than some I saw back home," LaTroy said.

Donnyel said she hopes her husband can find an outlet for his music she calls "holy hip-hop."

"It's his ministry. He had a bunch of shows lined up before the hurricane," Donnyel said. "It's a shame for his music not to be heard because it's so good. If I have to stand in the street and make people listen I will. It means a lot to him and it's part of starting over."