DUBOIS – A group of Penn State DuBois students spent their recent spring break helping to rebuild communities in New Orleans that are still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
On the service trip were Jacey Royer, Theresa Skillman, Crystal Vicklund, Max Moclock, Kim Hummel, Alina Bumbarger, Chris Kolp, Tony Harris, Mike Reed, Meredith Gilmore, Matt Sliwinski, Melinda Marconi, Cory Ball, Wes McMasters, and Haylee Passmore. They were led by Penn State DuBois Student Life Coordinator Marly Doty. They logged more than 400 volunteer hours during the week-long trip.
One of the first jobs the students jumped into upon arrival in New Orleans was planting trees. Nearly half a million of Louisiana’s Cypress trees wiped out by Katrina. “Louisiana’s coastal border is lined with swamps and Cypress trees, providing protection from hurricanes. With the loss of these trees, Louisiana is more susceptible to a greater loss during a hurricane,” Doty explained. She said the students planted more than 1,000 trees on their first day.
The rest of their work entailed fixing a home that had been damaged by the hurricane, and then repaired poorly. Much of the time they were correcting subpar work done by an unscrupulous contractor. “A lot of people were victims of contractor fraud after the hurricane. Our homeowner was one of those people,” said Doty. “We stabilized the flooring and prepped the outside for siding.”
Student volunteers said they felt good about the work they did, and that it will have a lasting impact. Volunteer Chris Kolp said, “This trip has been so rewarding, the community members were so appreciative, and it brought us closer together as a group. I wish we could have stayed longer.”
Crystal Vicklund added, “It was inspirational to interact with such positive people, despite the tragedy they still face in New Orleans. I am thankful for the opportunity to devote my spring break to give back to New Orleans.”
Doty said the positive experience students have while helping others on such trips becomes more apparent each year. “This is the third year I’ve had the pleasure of taking students for an Alternative Spring Break trip. It has been wonderful to watch the enthusiasm for this project grow from four students to six and this year a total of 17 of us. This week gave students the platform to learn more about themselves, other people, and what they are capable of.”
Steve Harmic, Penn State DuBois