April 18, 2019  

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Koch Leverages Natural Disaster Experiences, Personal Story to Help Citizens, Elected Leaders

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USM alumna Kathleen Koch works to help communities recover from natural disasters through her nonprofit agency, LeadersLink.

Kathleen Koch’s acclaimed news coverage of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters educated viewers about the realities those affected by these events on the ground.  Now Koch, a University of Southern Mississippi alumna, author and former reporter with CNN, is leveraging her experience documenting Mother Nature’s fury to help citizens, elected officials and private sector leaders make sound decisions about how to prepare and recover from the ravages of storms, earthquakes and fires that continue shaping daily headlines.

She is leading a team of former Gulf Coast leaders to Texas this month for a series of disaster recovery seminars in areas south of Houston and on the Coastal Bend where Hurricane Harvey came onshore.  It’s an effort by the nonprofit LeadersLink Koch launched to harness and share elected officials’ disaster lessons learned to help other communities better prevent, prepare for and recover from similar crises.

“It’s so important for those running the recovery to have perspective, to hear from someone who’s been where they are today,” Koch said. “Our team can not only share what worked and what didn’t, but what unexpected challenges may be just around the corner.”

Former Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr, former Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo, former Biloxi Director of Administration David Staehling and former St. Tammany Parish President and Louisiana Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Kevin Davis will all be speaking to the Texas officials who attend the Oct. 16 and 17 seminars. 

“They all helped lead their cities through Katrina and other storms,” explained Koch of the men who are volunteering their time.  “They are committed to making sure other communities learn from that experience.”

As Koch was planning outreach to Texas and Florida leaders, she also thought how important it would be to share with storm survivors her 2010 book Rising From Katrina, which details the inspiring recovery of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in particular her hometown, Bay St. Louis. 

“When I wrote Rising from Katrina I wanted to not only tell Mississippi’s story, but let people know that the worst of times can reveal the best in us,” said Koch, a member of USM's School of Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame. “I wanted other communities that experienced disaster to realize that they too could pull together as Bay St. Louis did, rebuild and become stronger.”

Ironically, she learned last month in an email from her publisher John F. Blair that they were being sold and the new owner was not purchasing her book. Koch was offered the opportunity to buy it at a reduced rate, but told that after Nov. 30 any unsold copies would be destroyed.

So she launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the needed $5,250 to purchase the remaining copies of the book and cover shipping and handling.  Koch plans to give away the copies of the book to disaster survivors, and will be handing out 200 copies when she and the LeadersLink team are in Texas next week. 

“I can’t bear the thought of my book being destroyed just when people need it most,” she said. “After Katrina, I was so proud of Mississippians’ generosity, courage and determination. Their stories deserve to live on and give others hope.”

To support Koch’s effort to preserve the books or to help cover the costs associated with the outreach in Texas, visit https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/stop-destruction-of-book-for-disaster-survivors/x/17447462. For information on LeadersLink, visit http://leaderslink.org/  and for more info on Rising From Katrina, visit http://www.blairpub.com/alltitles/risingfromkatrina/;. Learn more about Koch at http://kathleenkoch.com/about.aspx.