Jerome Group Lends Hand to Katrina Victims

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St. Louis-based Jerome Group is helping three Hurricane Katrina evacuees get back on their feet.

The direct marketing and digital printing company hired Sarah Nixon of Pass Christian, MS, last month as a quality assurance inspector. It also hired Cynthia Reed and Patricia Vallery, both of New Orleans, who started work this month as part-time help in Jerome's St. Louis plant. One is a laser operator and the other is doing fulfillment work.

All three went through harrowing experiences to get out of the devastated areas. Reed was rescued by boat from a second-story balcony with her 83-year-old father, who had refused to evacuate. Vallery used an inflatable mattress to reach safety. The two were picked up by a man from Idaho who had driven there to see whether he could help. He gave them a ride to St. Louis, where they both had family.

The apartment complex where Nixon and her two sons, ages 7 and 15, lived was destroyed, and they endured several days with little food before they reached a shelter in a nearby town. After borrowing a cell phone, she contacted family members, including her mother in Branson, MO, and her brother and sister, who live in St. Louis. Nixon and her family temporarily moved in with her brother in St. Louis. There, a friend who works at Jerome encouraged her to apply for a job there.

"I am so thankful to Jerome," Nixon said. "They gave me a job, and a lot of people there helped me out and have allowed me to start over again."

Jerome and its employees also helped Nixon by paying for a few weeks of after-school care and buying school uniforms for her children as well as helping furnish her new apartment.

"She came to the company and she literally had no money," Jerome president Andy Kohn said. "So people in the company just reached their hand in their wallets and pulled out money so she could feed her family."

Reed and Vallery were referred to Jerome by a friend of Kohn who is involved in community service. After staying in a St. Louis-area home with three other evacuated families, they have moved into their own places.

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