Video: Saints in the shelters

updated 9/9/2005 1:30:12 PM ET 2005-09-09T17:30:12

Two days before their season opener, the New Orleans Saints remain without a stadium.  Players are staying in a San Antonio hotel and practicing on a high school football field, along with that city’s Alamodome. 

That’s the practical side.  On the emotional end, while other teams have spent the past few weeks studying game plans and preparing for the season, some of the Saints have been visiting shelters full of Katrina victims.

Offensive tackle Wayne Gandy is one of the players who has been active in helping those impacted by the hurricane. He started the Wayne Gandy Foundation to help the survivors.

He joined MSNBC’s Alison Stewart on Friday to discuss what he and his teammates are doing to help the recovery effort.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the “Launch” button to the right.

ALLISON STEWART: I know you and several other players have visited shelters.  Can you describe to me what you saw at the shelter?

WAYNE GANDY:  We just saw how people’s lives have been changed.  You walk into a warehouse, you see 2,000, 3,000 people just laying out on these 5’ x 3’ cots, really just totally distraught trying to figure out the next step.

STEWART:  Did you hear any particular story from anybody that really stuck with you? 

GANDY:  I heard a lot of horrific stories from some of the people that were at the Convention Center.  The conditions, people losing their lives during childbirth, just stories that you can’t believe could happen in just a short time.  It must have been a terrible place because when I spoke to them, they were just enjoyed to be in that warehouse living because the Convention Center was just so terrible.

STEWART:  Of course, it’s important to keep people’s spirits up and that why it’s great to have athletes and famous folks visit these shelters.  But, as a person, why was it important for you personally to venture to one of these shelters?

GANDY:  Well, I come from humble beginnings and I can’t imagine if something like that happened in my area in Florida, having my loved ones in that similar situation where you don’t have a lot of money.  You don’t have credit cards do you can’t move, you can’t function.  It’s hard to move.  I just want to let the people know that the players from New Orleans, we really care.  We’re very mindful of what’s going on and if us showing up gives you any kind of joy or a ray of sunshine, well, I just felt like it was my duty to go. 

STEWART:  I understand that you set up this foundation, the Wayne Gandy Foundation.  Tell me about it.

GANDY:  I set it up with the Atlantic Phoenix Properties.  It’s just housing that’s been set up for about 15-20 places for displaced families in the Atlanta area.  Families that have made it that far to give them a couple of months of free rent, free food, pay the utilities and things like that.  I’ve asked some of my friends around to donate, to help support these people.

STEWART:  Of course, all athletes what to play to win.  For yourself, has winning taken a new significance for your town?

GANDY:  I think not so much as winning but going out and showing the spirit of New Orleans.  I think that’s what the people are going to be looking at.  … I think the most important part is going out and showing that we are fighters, we will scrap and that the people know that the people from New Orleans are really functional people that can make it through anything.

For more information on how to contribute to the Wayne Gandy Foundation, call (678)233-8913.

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