Evanston youth assist Hurricane Isaac cleanup on Gulf Coast

Amanda Gilbert, Reporter

More than 80 young adults left Evanston this summer after receiving temporary job offers to spend a minimum of two months restoring hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast communities.

Hurricane Issac struck southern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi and in late August. Damage totals from the hurricane could top $2 billion, according to CATSTAFF a Houston-based company that staffs workers for major restoration companies.

The 84 Evanston youths, who would be unemployed without the cleanup opportunity, left Evanston on Aug. 30. They work seven days a week for 12 hours each day in exchange for food, lodging, transportation and $700 in cash, according to aan Evanston news release. The jobs could last for at least 2 months, depending on how quickly damage from the hurricane is repaired.

Former Evanston resident and CATSTAFF project operations manager Chester Kirksey initiated the program, said Kim Jenkins, Evanston’s assistant youth and young adult program manager.

“He came out and said that he was looking for workers from Evanston to participate,” Jenkins said. “He wanted people to have the opportunity to work and make a living for a couple of months.”

CATSTAFF operations manager Ryan Gregor said the company is currently looking for employees for nearly 100 restoration companies working on Isaac-related damage.

“Anytime something big happens, like the hurricane in the Gulf Coast, we try to send several hundred people to restore the area that was damaged,” Gregor said.

CATSTAFF offers job opportunities in 22 categories, in areas such as hospitality and landfill. Jenkins added that CATSTAFF sent many unemployed people to the Gulf so they could not only help restore the damage, but also add more job experience to their resumes.

For instance, one of the Evanston residents participating in the program said he was happy to find a demolition job in New Orleans because he hoped to eventually get construction work in Chicago, Jenkins said.

“This opportunity shows that Evanston is trying to get opportunities out there for young people who are trying to work,” she said.