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'We Stay in Baton Rouge, But New Orleans Is Home'

Two sisters displaced by Katrina spread the spirit of helping others wherever they go.

Sisters Audrey Celistan and Lois Holloway lost everything in August 2005 when their homes were flooded. They found strength, however, through volunteering and helping others whose situations after Hurricane Katrina were even worse than theirs.

"Volunteering is giving back," Audrey says. "You’ve got to give back."

When producer Kim Sedmak visited them in 2006, they didn’t know if they’d ever be able to live in New Orleans again. But they were sure that they’d be involved, in one way or another, in helping rebuild the city they still loved.


Forced to abandon New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina five years ago, Audrey Celistan and Lois Holloway bounced around the state, staying with family and friends. When the two sisters thought they'd found a home in Lake Charles, Hurricane Rita chased them to Baton Rouge.

And there they'll stay.

"Baton Rouge was alien to both of us," says Celistan, 79. But they're settling in. Buoyed by their savings and flood insurance money, each bought a house within several minutes' drive of each other. They're also meeting and befriending others who have been displaced by Katrina.

The siblings’ odyssey hasn't extinguished the spirit of giving back that’s long defined their lives. For three years now, Holloway, 71, has been helping out a lady in a nearby nursing home. "I’m planning to do some work as a reading buddy in one of the elementary schools," she adds. Celistan keeps busy by volunteering with various local charities.

Still, they'll never sever their New Orleans roots. Both attend church in Baton Rouge, while remaining members of St.John’s Institutional Missionary Baptist Church in New Orleans. "We are a part of a group called the Ladies of Charity," Holloway says. "We do volunteer work through that organization.” The women also continue to work with the New Orleans AARP chapter.

"We stay in Baton Rouge," Celistan says, "but New Orleans is home."

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