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Families that found help in D.C. after Hurricane Katrina

Wednesday, August 25, 2010; B05

In 2005, United Communications Group, a business publisher in Gaithersburg, helped nine families resettle in Washington after they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Here is what happened to six of them.

-- William and Trica O'Neal

UCG helped the O'Neals and their four sons find an apartment and gave them a down payment for a car. William, 34, a teacher and singer in New Orleans, had trouble keeping his music career going. He is now a special education teacher for D.C. public schools. Trica, 35, is an administrative assistant. The boys are 19, 12, 10 and 6. They live in Lanham.

-- Darren and Kerry Stander

UCG found the Standers and their two daughters, Amy and Brandi, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and flew them to Washington from Houston, where they wound up after fleeing St. Bernard Parish. Darren, a welder, got a job with Clark Construction and the family settled in Mechanicsville, Va. Homesick, they moved back in August 2006, spending a year in FEMA trailers before moving into a refurbished house. Darren, 44, captains a boat that supplies oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Kerry, 44, who has had health problems, is not working. Amy, 22, recently had her first child. Brandi, 19, finished high school and is about to go into the Navy.

-- Lydia Thompson

UCG got Lydia, 37, her father and her children an apartment and helped her find work as a teacher. Her father died in 2008. Her oldest child, John, 17, is about to start classes at the University of the District of Columbia. Her son David, 12, is entering middle school. Her two youngest children, Faith, 8, and Joseph, 7, are in grade school. They live in Camp Springs.

-- Elaine and Ronald Richardson

Elaine, 55, is Thompson's aunt. She got a teaching job in Prince George's County, but she and Ronald, 53, whose health was failing, decided to move to Mississippi in July 2008, along with their youngest child, Kayla, now 18. Elaine has resumed teaching, and Kayla is a college freshman. Their son, Ronald, daughter Kim and son-in-law Kevin stayed in Washington. Kim, 27, obtained a master's degree, and she and Kevin, 28, work for the City of Mount Rainier. Ronald, 24, graduated from Howard University last year and works for a subcontractor for Pepco. All three live in Laurel.

-- Benson and Catina Walker

Benson, 33, a keyboard player, is Thompson's brother. He and Catina, 31, who was pregnant at the time of the storm, came to Washington with their two children. Their third child was born in the city four months later. The Walkers returned to New Orleans in March 2006. He plays for various churches and will tour Italy in December. Catina is a teacher. They had their fourth child last year.

-- Joseph and Bessie Williams

Joseph, 30, is a cousin of Thompson. He and Bessie, 32, came to Washington with their son, then 3. After spending a year in an apartment in Hyattsville provided by UCG, they lived with different relatives. Joseph found work as a security guard, but in 2008, shortly after their second child was born, the Williamses decided to move back to Louisiana, where the cost of living is lower.

(The Post was unable to reach the families of Melissa Pennington, Roger and Kaithra Cyres, or Mary Richardson.)

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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