ALBANY, GA (WALB) - It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina altered the course of so many lives, and since an Albany woman decided to help a family of 23 after they were relocated by the natural disaster.
Mariellen Bateman had plans to go out of town to an event to honor her late husband. But the weather conditions brought on by Katrina made that impossible.
Bateman decided to honor her husband in another way.
"I think I just felt like, if he were here he would be trying to do something to help those New Orleans people," said Bateman.
She called several hotels to see how she could help. It was the InTown Suites which was The Suburban Lodge back then, where she met the Zenon family. Bateman was at the hotel when the family of 23 drove up in three vehicles. And she knew how she could help.
Everyday for 12 weeks Bateman visited the family at the hotel taking them under her wing.
She helped two of the family members enroll at Albany State and three at Deerfield Windsor.
"Mr. W.T. Henry who was the headmaster at the school at the time gave those kids a chance because they had no school records, no transcripts," Said Bateman.
The students succeeded both inside and outside the classroom. Tony Zenon was a standout running back at Deerfield, committing to Georgia Tech and graduating last year. On Sept. 18th Tony Zenon will be back at Deerfield Windsor where they will retire his jersey during their football game.
Bateman says that everyday the two families communicate in some way.
She also said that she wasn't alone in helping the Katrina victims here in town. A number of restaurants, businesses and churches reached out to those who had made it to Albany.
"I think that was never known how much our community reached out to not only this family but other families that were here," Bateman says.
According to Bateman, some of the Zenon family went back to New Orleans but many of the family members stayed in Albany and are doing well. And as Bateman says, "they are all just wonderful survivors."