By Steve Effros Priorities I’m just back from a trip to New Orleans where I spoke to the good folks down at the Louisiana Cable Show. They had a fine turnout, even though we had to suffer through the beginnings of Mardi Gras… an event that from my point of view you can skip! The jazz and the food, however, were as good as ever in a city still reeling from both natural and man-made disasters. The "natural" part we all know about: Katrina. The man-made part we are all too familiar with as well: government bureaucracy. But this is a column about some small successes as opposed to the massive failures. It’s about getting priorities straight. That job, in my family, is usually handled by my wife, Lucia. She chose to join me down in New Orleans to celebrate her birthday—not by going to the parades and parties but to volunteer to help an organization made up of young people contributing their time, effort and souls to helping people in the most devastated areas. Lucia spent her birthday cleaning and cutting up crates of potatoes to help provide food for folks working to rebuild the totally destroyed lower ninth ward. The group, Emergency Communities, was started by young volunteers right after Katrina hit when there were lots of volunteers and painfully little organization for how to help. They figured out their own way, and in essence started food kitchens in, for instance, the location where Katrina made landfall. There was nothing left there. In New Orleans, these kids organized food donations, created a temporary eating hall. They eventually expanded it to provide a place to do laundry, eat three square meals (they feed over 250 people every day) and have some computers and email availability (they’re using Cox cable modems). In addition, they now are starting things like a "tool lending library" so that people can get the basic tools they need to rebuild. The kids running (now two) food kitchens are still there, sleeping in an unheated trailer with outside toilets and no pay. But they are smiling, they are doing great things and they have shown everyone how you can get things done without the bureaucracy, without the overhead, and with a lot of caring and love. It’s an awesome example of what can be done when folks get just a little bit in the way of resources and then can do what they do best without anyone getting in their way. To be sure, there are lots of "big" questions that need to be addressed down there. And government does not, and cannot, work fast. But in the meantime, there are still lots of people who need a smile, a plate of food, a place to sit after working all day and some simple resources to help them rebuild their homes and their lives. Lucia spent the day at "ground zero" working with wonderful young folks who are doing just that. They just, for instance, got a donation from a cruise ship of 900 used mattresses that they are distributing. I’m pretty sure, even though the cable industry has already donated a lot, there is more (used tools, for instance) that we could send. Check out the list of things they are looking for on their web site: http://www.emergencycommunities.org, to see what you can do. Check out the "needs" list on the "donate" page. We can assure you from first-hand knowledge, whatever you send will be put to good use. They have their priorities straight.