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Queen of All Saints Parish embraces Slidell, La., family


September 14, 2005 - By BILL MILLIGAN

For the Call

Members of the Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville last week embraced a family of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Shelly Bogran and her sons, Mitchell, 13, and Spencer, 9, formerly of Slidell, La., found their way to south county after Katri-na's storm surge and wind nearly destroyed their Louisiana home.

"The eye of the storm went over us,'' Bogran said. "More than 85 percent of the town was damaged. Many of the homes were totally destroyed.''

Bogran had intended to ride out the storm at her home because previous hurricanes had spared her property. Relatives had gathered there with her to ride out the gale. But when the National Weather Service announced Katrina had been upgraded to a Category Five hurricane with 175-mph winds, everyone began heading west.

"We headed over to Monroe, La., the night of the hurricane,'' she recalled. "We were lucky enough to have a room because rooms were impossible to find. We were far enough west to escape any affects of the hurricane.''

The next day she packed her sons into the family car and drove until she reached her sister's home in Oakville. Conscious of the storm's path, Bogran didn't want to use Interstate 55 because Katrina was tracking in that direction.

"I took back roads through Arkansas then I hit I-40 through Memphis to 55 and on in here,'' she said. "I just kept driving because I kept hearing the rooms were booked all the way past Memphis.''

She made one stop in Quincy, Ill., to see her parents.

Over the past few weeks Bogran has learned to live with no news of loved ones and wearing the same clothes every day.

She finally was able to start filling in missing pieces about family and friends through the use of text messaging, but telephone service has not been restored. She finally caught up with a mother-in-law, who fled to Portland, Ore.

"My neighbor was able to get back in the subdivision last Thursday,'' Bogran said. "I have water damage to the first floor and a big tall pine tree laying on the back of my home. It cracked open the roof and I have this big gaping hole. The problem is getting workers in there to actually start fixing the damage.''

She's been told it will be two months be-fore electricity will come back to the area where she used to live.

A teacher, Bogran is uncertain whether she still has a job.

"I have 20 years' teaching experience,'' she said. "I had worked my way into teaching a computer lab. I'm a nationally certified teacher. Only 3 percent of teachers get that level of certification. My school district doesn't know how many teachers they're going to need because they don't know who will be attending.''

Bogran grew up in Quincy, but moved to New Orleans after her marriage.

"I'm from the Midwest, so this area has a little comfort level for me. My kids would be shocked if we moved here,'' she said, adding that she's been noticing a little bit of stress on their part. Her youngest son was very excited about going to school here, but her oldest was more apprehensive.

"I think that will reverse itself in a couple of days,'' she said.

Bogran said she's been overwhelmed by the support people have shown her family.

Queen of All Saints had school supplies waiting for them when the Bograns registered for school. After word got out that she was staying at her sister's house, the whole neighborhood began collecting money and resources for her family.

"Everybody's asking what they can do to help,'' Bogran said. "Everyone here has been so generous. It's nice to know that there are communities that are still like this.''

Anyone interested in helping the family get back on its feet can donate to a trust fund for her at Reliance Bank, 5739 Tel-egraph Road, according to QAS parish member Tom Ahrens.

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