Evacuees create special #039;thank you#039; for DHR

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 1, 2005

A New Orleans couple who evacuated to Butler County to escape Hurricane Katrina say they have been treated wonderfully by the county.

In fact, you could say Jane and Andrew Union are "sew" appreciative.

Last week, the couple surprised the volunteers and staff of the Butler County Department of Human Resources with two quilted wall hangings the Unions created for their newfound friends.

One of the wall hangings features the Alabama flag with the outline of the state in its center and 'DHR' emblazoned across the "Heart of Dixie."

The second wall hanging was personalized especially for the DHR housing coordinator, volunteer Sara Jean Atkins, who "has been an angel for us," Jane Union said.

"That's me in the center, welcoming them in," Atkins said with a pleased smile, pointing out the brunette figure stitched in the center of the hanging.

"This really touched us. It's a gift from the heart," Frieda Stevens, DHR director, said.

"It's our way of saying 'thank you' to these folks for all their help," Andrew Union said.

Andrew created the DHR quilt while Jane sewed Atkins' wall hanging.

"I taught Andrew how to sew several years ago, and he's been sewing ever since," Jane grinned.

Andrew's grandmother, Elina Whittle of Georgiana, was a quilter who was friends with some of the women of Gee's Bend renowned for their unique quilts, he said.

"We took his grandmother's old quilts and my family's old quilts and repaired them…when we left New Orleans, we brought all the old quilts with us and left the ones we have made behind," Jane explained.

"After all, we can replace the ones we made – but you just can't replace those old ones," she added with her Cajun lilt.

The Unions, who are living in an old family home in Georgiana, say they will likely settle permanently in the county.

"We haven't had the opportunity to go back to New Orleans, but it looks like there is nothing for us to go back to. We like it here; we have family here," Andrew said.

The couple says the help they have received from hurricane relief volunteers like Atkins and the DHR staff has been invaluable.

"In spite of going through something as traumatic as this, DHR has put some stability back into our lives. We wanted to do something to show our appreciation," Andrew said.

"I'm just glad we were able to help them. All the donations we have received from the good people of the county have allowed us to get a lot of things for them," Atkins said.