Bradley students went to the New Orleans area to help people there get their lives back in order. They not only accomplished that goal, but they also came back with their own lives more in order, thanks to a new perspective on life. Students shared stories of generosity, gratitude, and appreciation for what’s really important as they told about developing friendships with the people they helped.
The contingent of 53 Bradley students and 10 other volunteers dedicated their fall break to hurricane relief. The group left for Slidell, Louisiana, on October 7 and returned October 11. Organized by Bradley’s Campus Crusade for Christ, the trip was open to the entire Bradley community.
The group stayed at the First Baptist Church of Slidell, which has been coordinating hurricane relief efforts in the area. Jaclyn Estes ’07, David Lewis ’06, and Stephanie Richards ’06, pictured at right, were among those who participated. “Every room of the church was full,” says Lewis, noting 270 people were staying at the church when they were there. The Bradley group was among those in the gymnasium, which had a huge hole in the roof due to hurricane damage.
People in the community had filled out forms with their addresses and their needs. Students were divided into teams of eight to 10 people and were given work assignments. Lewis’ team helped with clean-up in a house that had six to eight inches of mud, sewage, and swamp grass on the floor. “The bayou in front of the house got shoved into the house, and there had been eight feet of water inside. We had to shovel all that out. After that, we had to rip down drywall and cabinets. Even the cabinets were full of muck. There was mold on the walls, and a couple of snakes were in the house. After we cleaned it out, we moved out appliances. The refrigerator was only a couple of weeks old, but the food in there had spoiled. The owners told us we had saved them $8,000 by helping.”
Because of the amount of work needed on the house, Lewis’ group concentrated on one house, while others worked on several houses. They knocked out bathrooms, removed carpet, took down drywall, sprayed bleach water to stop mold, and distributed clothing, food, and bottled water.
Estes comments, “People there were so generous. They lost everything and were just so giving. We were there only a couple of days, and they wanted to know what they could do.”
Richards adds, “It was hard for them to accept help. They’re used to giving. I saw people there who have lost everything and were still content. There was a lot that wasn’t worth salvaging, but the people would say, ‘At least I have my family.’ I didn’t know how bad it would be there, and yet, everyone is so thankful.”
She concludes, “There aren’t that many opportunities to help so many people and touch so many lives. I had homework to do over fall break, but I thought this was much more important. I have everything I need, but they don’t.”
Alumni Helping hands
Tara Williamson ’95 MA ’97 of Charlotte, North Carolina, a social worker for Youth Homes, a foster care agency, volunteered with the American Red Cross for three weeks, from September 18 to October 9. She assessed property damage in New Orleans. As Hurricane Rita approached, Williamson was assigned to Derrider, Louisiana, to the eye of the storm, to help at shelters in the area.
“The people there have amazing spirits and shared great life lessons. They recognize the importance of friends, family, and holding onto your faith…I didn’t meet any victims, only survivors.”
Mike Peterson ’96, pictured at right, of Seattle, Washington, volunteered at the Reliant Complex, including the Astrodome, in Houston, Texas, September 7 to 9. Many displaced New Orleans residents had been bused there. Peterson decided to volunteer when he saw there was a shortage of help. He made arrangements to work his regular job as a toxicologist for Intertox, a public health consulting firm, from his hotel room during the day and volunteer in the evening. His duties included helping a 16-year-old boy through the maze of information desks to register for school, alternative housing, etc.; manual labor, such as tearing down cots and moving supplies; and answering phones at a message center.
“I wondered what to expect of the general attitude of the people there. There was not a lot of despair or whining. People were resolved to do what they needed to get on with their lives.”
Bob Wiltz ’69 MA ’70, a psychologist from Peoria with a practice in Morris, volunteered with the American Red Cross in Baton Rouge and the Greater New Orleans area from September 2 to 17. He counseled people at the airport in New Orleans. He also helped distribute food, drink, and supplies in St. Bernard Parish and transported four Israeli humanitarian aid workers.
Andrea Herson Littlefield ’87 of Austin, Texas, worked as a risk communications specialist with the Department of Health at the Astrodome from September 7 to 11. She worked in the Joint Information Center, where public information officers from responding agencies came together so they could coordinate messages. One of her roles was writing about health prevention issues, such as hand washing and food storage, for a newsletter distributed to the people staying at the Reliant Complex.
“To see this vast sea of cots, especially the children and the babies, really struck me. Texas really did extraordinary things to help. This is what we’ve been working toward with preparedness. We came together and helped
More helping hands
View additional images from the students' trip to New Orleans to help with the hurricane relief.
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