- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Last week, as Hurricane Katrina rumbled over the Gulf Coast, New Orleans native Carling Dinkler couldn’t help recalling how his hometown had successfully ducked Hurricane Ivan’s wrath the previous year. Mr. Dinkler, head of the Louisiana State Society, hoped history would repeat itself.

But when the worst-case scenario played out, he quickly whipped up a fundraiser here to lend support to the hardest-hit victims.

Wednesday’s soiree, supported by the state societies of Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, drew a youthful crowd that spilled out onto a rooftop deck of the Jones Day law firm building in Northwest. More than 2,000 guests were rewarded with a picture postcard view of the Capitol and an array of regionally appropriate munchables from such sponsors as the Capital Grille and Red, Hot & Blue.

Gaiety masked the heart of the event.

“No words can describe it. You feel helpless,” said Mr. Dinkler, his animated eyes suddenly distant. “We all have family and friends in trouble right now.”

Even before the first wine cork popped, the event had raised $132,000, and as of Wednesday evening an additional $150,000 — and still rising — was added to the tally. All proceeds go to the American Red Cross.

Lindy Boggs, a former congresswoman from Louisiana and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, stressed in her remarks that New Orleans is much more than the sum of its Fat Tuesdays and bead-hurling revelry.

“We have a remarkable cultural heritage. We have operas, we have symphonies, and, of course, we have that jazz,” said Mrs. Boggs, who offered the crowd her network of connections should anyone need to contact a loved one still in the blighted areas.

Others on hand to raise funds and show moral support were former Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston, Rep. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida and Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama.

“We all collectively can do a lot,” Mr. Shelby told the crowd after noting his own state had been spared much of the devastation that occurred in neighboring Mississippi and Louisiana.

Guests had little interest in finger pointing — although one reveler took the opportunity to sport a Haley Barbour for President button on his suit.

“This is unprecedented. We’re doing our very best. All that stuff can be discussed later,” Mr. Dinkler said. “Whatever your party, it’s time to come together for New Orleans.”

Christian Toto

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