Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Katrina volunteers get a voice

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Steve Friedman (center) of Potomac hashes out Web site design issues with Churchill High School volunteers Roxana Shamsazar (left), Alex Jamis, Elyse Toplin (seated) and Aditya Kolhekar. Working with Web site design expert Dennis Courtney (behind Friedman), the volunteers are raising awareness about Hurricane Katrina volunteers.
Steve Friedman of North Potomac is marking the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by bringing to television the stories of the volunteers who continue to turn up, hammer in hand, to help rebuild the devastated Gulf Coast.

Last year, on the first anniversary of the disaster, he traveled to New Orleans and Mississippi to film the stories of volunteers for ‘‘Travel Television,” a new series premiering Aug. 29 on Access Montgomery, channel 21.

‘‘Almost to a person, the [volunteers] said it was a life-changing experience and the most important thing they’d ever done,” Friedman said

But when he returned home, the 30-year Voice of America employee realized that there was no one Web site or television show that showed those stories.

So with 30 volunteer interviews completed, he created six, half-hour shows to tell the world about what’s been accomplished and what needs to be done.

The shows include interviews with government officials, travel tips and links to helpful sites for volunteers. His daughter Abby Friedman, 21, a public relations major at the University of Maryland in College Park, provides the on-camera narration.

The three volunteers featured on the first show share stories so inspiring that his daughter Elizabeth Friedman, 23, decided to volunteer for the rebuilding effort.

A Winston Churchill High School staff member, she recruited teens interested in helping her father in the logical next step to building a network for volunteers: a Web site called www.projectkatrinavolunteers.net.

‘‘Like most people, I thought the area was pretty settled now, that things were back to normal. Now I see they need a lot more help down there,” said Vikrum Sheorey, 16, of Potomac.

Watch the show

‘‘Travel Television,” a magazine-format show featuring the stories of Hurricane Katrina volunteers, premieres at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 29 on Channel 21. A Web site featuring volunteer blogs and links for volunteers can be found at www.projectkatrinavolunteers.net.