Evangeline Downs Helps Hurricane Victims

The Hurricane Katrina relief benefit initiated by Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino in Opelousas, La., has been added to a growing list of U.S. companies who are successfully raising large sums of money and providing relief for hurricane survivors. The racing operation donated 100% of its revenues from its Sept. 4 racing program to the Acadiana Chapter of the American Red Cross Relief Fund.

The horsemen also contributed their share of the revenue from Sunday evening's program, and the jockeys riding that night contributed cash from their earnings. More than $80,000 was donated to help the relief efforts in housing, relocating, and providing safety and comfort for survivors who were displaced by the devastating storm. That number increases daily as more and more simulcast outlets report their donations.

The special night of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing drew national attention in an effort to generate cash for the ongoing relief effort. The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast has resulted in tens of thousands of displaced families seeking shelter in and around Louisiana. The benefit went nationwide through the Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino simulcast network.

"Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino truly cares about the community," said Mike Howard, general manager for Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino. "The response from the hundreds of facilities that carry our racing program was overwhelming. The real winners are not only the people who will be helped by this effort, but also by our fans and the racing community who made this possible."

Evangeline has not stopped its efforts. This past week Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino prepared hot meals for 500 evacuees housed in a variety of Opelousas shelters.  Executive Chef Ray Derderian, who is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, organized the effort. A local American Red Cross coordinator commented that it was unusual to have an executive chef heading this type of operation and that it added a special touch. Chef Derderian headed up a group of chefs and cooks who prepared and coordinated the meal. A large group of Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino staff volunteered to staff the serving lines.

In another outreach effort called "an everything drive," employees loaded an American Red Cross Ambulance and Opelousas Fire Department truck with goods for survivors. Local Red Cross shelters dispersed the goods.

"Our employees haven't stopped since the storm hit," said Howard. "It is amazing how they much they care for the people who need help. I am proud of what they have given in such a short amount of time."

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