Valley residents may not get much use out of umbrellas, but local students have discovered they can be used to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Armed with vibrant markers, the students from Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center in Scottsdale and Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek will turn dozens of white umbrellas into colorful art pieces.
Their work will be displayed from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5 at El Pedregal Festival Marketplace, 34505 N. Scottsdale Road, and will be sold for a minimum $50 donation.
The money will fund materials that young victims of Katrina will use to color their own umbrellas, which then will be sold to benefit the children’s schools.
"We call it twice-blessed money," said Scottsdale resident Hilda Brown, who in 1990 founded The Umbrella Project, a Scottsdale-based nonprofit organization.
Students participating in the project said they feel good about helping survivors of Katrina, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people in August.
"I put myself in their position," said 13-year-old Mackenzie Lee of Phoenix. "I just can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything."
Lee is one of about 15 students at the Arcadia center who are coloring the white nylon umbrellas.
On Wednesday, Lee’s brow was furrowed in concentration as she colored around white stars with a blue nontoxic fabric marker.
"Some people can help by sending money or supplies," Lee said. "Art is how I can help."
Last year, the first time they participated in the Umbrella Project, Arcadia center students colored umbrellas to benefit victims of the December 26 tsunami that killed about 250,000 people in Asia and Africa, and left hundreds of thousands more without homes.
In addition to helping victims of devastating acts of nature, the project allows students to learn graphic design and the importance of being a good American, said Sue Ann Spahr, an art teacher at the Arcadia center.
Thirteen-year-old Alex Greey of Phoenix said he never would have thought umbrellas could benefit Katrina victims.
"I didn’t know umbrellas could help so many people," Greey said. "I just thought they kept rain off your head."