Terril D. Faul, Blanchard, Tobie M. | 2/22/2006 2:36:51 AM
"I’ve never won anything in my life," cried Tasha Miller.
But her day had come. Miller, a 4-H volunteer from New Orleans who lost her home in Hurricane Katrina, won a 2006 Toyota Prius hybrid from NBA star Amare Stoudemire.
Stoudemire, a center with the Phoenix Suns, gave away cars to 10 4-H volunteer leaders. Those volunteers lost homes, jobs and even loved ones in hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"I think it is well-deserved," Stoudemire said. "They put so much time in the community."
Stoudemire owns a Toyota dealership and wanted to do something for victims of the hurricanes. He contacted the NBA for help, and because of 4-H’s work with the New Orleans Hornets over the years, the NBA suggested he reward 4-H leaders.
4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant university system. 4-H provides young people with a variety of educational projects and activities designed to help them develop knowledge and skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. It is directed in Louisiana by faculty in the LSU AgCenter, but volunteer leaders across the state play vital roles in helping to reach more young people.
The 10 finalists who received cars this weekend were selected from 30 applicants. They gathered at New Orleans’ City Park Saturday (Feb. 18) under the impression that only one would drive away with a new car.
The 6-foot, 11-inch Stoudemire drove up in the black Prius. The finalists, all women, greeted him and took turns sitting in the car.
As the women lined up for the "drawing" Stoudemire said, "You guys have been so great to the community – all of you are getting Toyotas."
The women and their family members erupted in cheers as nine more Priuses drove up. Some of the winners fell to the ground; others rushed to hug Stoudemire.
"We all got cars," exclaimed Ellie Melancon, a 4-H volunteer from Jefferson Parish.
"I can’t catch my breath. I’m so excited right now," said Elaine Sanchez, sitting in one of the new cars. "This is wonderful."
Stoudemire toured the site of what was Sanchez’s home in New Orleans East before the giveaway.
"I just had to reach out and bless them with something that’s coming from the heart," said Stoudemire, the top of his white track suit covered in make-up from hugs and kisses from the grateful women.
Terril Faul, the head of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H program, was proud that Stoudemire chose 4-H and these women to honor.
"They are not looking for awards," Faul said of the finalists. "They really just enjoy working with youth and making a difference in their lives."
Miller, a mother of three, relocated to Willis, Texas, with her family after Hurricane Katrina. She was very active in the New Orleans area 4-H club that met at Jackson Barracks.
"I loved working as a 4-H volunteer," she said. "I was so excited to give back to the community."
Miller said she doesn’t believe she will return to New Orleans and is looking for a 4-H club to work with in Texas.
"I miss it. I miss my kids. They were a part of my life," she said.
All the women were able to drive off in their new cars with taxes and title fees also covered by Stoudemire.
Dianne Jupiter, shivering from excitement and the damp chill in the air that afternoon, ducked into a silver Pruis and shouted "It’s warm in here."
Contact: Terril Faul at (225) 578-2196 or email@example.com
Writer: Tobie Blanchard at (225) 578-5649 or firstname.lastname@example.org