Friday, September 13, 2013

Privateer Basketball Takes Part in 9/11 National Day of Service

For the third consecutive year, members of the New Orleans basketball team took part in 'National Day of Service,' a national initiative in observance of the events of September 11, 2001.

This year, the student-athletes and coaching staff partnered with Harbor Community Church and ventured out into two areas of the city. One group traveled to the Lower Ninth Ward to help clean up and remove blight, while a second group returned to the Baptist Friendship House located on Elysian Fields Avenue in the Marigny neighborhood to complete a project from a year earlier.

Created in 1999, the Friendship House is a ministry designed to aid homeless women and children. The nonprofit also serves as a transitional housing program that gets its residents back on their feet. UNO head coach Mark Slessinger said that he was happy to get his players involved in 'National Day of Service' once again.

"This is one of the most important projects we will do this year," said Slessinger. "It is a day that honors those who selflessly gave for others expecting nothing in return. We hope that this small act of investing back into our community today will help honor the spirit of what the 9/11 National Day of Service is all about."

Several players endured the sweltering September heat to haul wooden planks and boards needed for the project. Others worked up a sweat out in the yard, cleaning up and removing overgrowth.

Sophomore Andre Gonzaque was part of the group that worked on a shelter for women near the Friendship House.

"We took measurements of boards and cut them in order for them to be nailed into the house," said Gonzaque. "We also got vines off the fences and moved things around for the yard work that had to be done."

The day called for a lot of hard work, but Gonzaque said that it was work that he was proud to do and would do again.

"I really felt like I was giving back to the community," said Gonzaque. "It is something that I can definitely do more of. I felt like it was a great blessing to be out there helping people that really need it and touching people's hearts. It was a great experience."

Gonzaque's teammate, freshman Nate Frye, echoed those sentiments and added that it was a good thing for student-athletes like himself to serve others in need.

"A lot of times as athletes, we tend to think about ourselves at times," said Frye, "Just to go out was a blessing and for the women to see that we actually care about them."

The 9/11 community service initiative in New Orleans is something that Slessinger is truly committed to as
part of the UNO basketball program, calling it one of his squad's core community investment projects.

"Anyone who has been around me for more than 30 seconds understands the passion, love, and pride for our city," said Slessinger. "It is important that we contribute our small and humble part today to make it even better."

Slessinger has participated in 'National Day of Service' in each of the three years he has been at UNO.

In 2011, he and his players repainted the NOFD No. 9 firehouse and completed cleaning projects in the Frenchmen Street area. Last year, they helped gut a house in the Marigny for the Friendship House and also aided in Hurricane Isaac recovery work in City Park.

These various service projects are part of Slessinger's ongoing support of 'National Day of Service.'

"We are proud to serve the City of New Orleans while representing the University of New Orleans," said Slessinger.
"We are bound to lead the charge at every opportunity we can to make our city a better place."