Operation Southern Comfort Volunteers Return Home

 

Pictured is the entire Morrisville-Eaton Central School District Operation Southern Comfort volunteer contingent.

From left, Abby Hastings, Sandy Clark, Brook Warner, Sara Collier and Jessie Carroll hang sheetrock for Miss Georgia in New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward.

Students were able to enjoy two Mardi Gras parades in the Garden District part of the city. This photo is from the Krewe of Proteus parade.

Pictured from left are Taylor Leonard, Megan Klish, Sierra Williams, Jordan Haugli and Justice Armstrong, taking a break from cleaning out and securing a house in New Orleans to pose with a new friend who will benefit from one fewer drug house in her neighborhood.

Jessie Carroll (foreground) and Allie Lake (background) assist boys from the DCMO BOCES carpentry program as they build a shed for Marilyn Paisly in Belle Chase, La., just across the Mississippi River from where the other groups were working.

Morrisville-Eaton Central Schools

(Town of Eaton, NY- March 2012) For the seventh time, a group of students, staff and community members from the Morrisville-Eaton Central School District returned to Louisiana for a service trip to Louisiana ravaged by Hurricane Katrina six years ago last August. The trip was organized by Operation Southern Comfort out of Liverpool (operationsoutherncomfort.org).

This was the 38th trip from this organization, which now has sent almost 2,000 volunteers to the Gulf Coast. This trip had a total of 92 volunteers, 33 of whom were with the Morrisville-Eaton group.

The project provides vans for travel back and forth from Syracuse and for transportation while in the area. Adult volunteers drove the vans and acted as chaperones for the students. The trip is 1,400 miles each way and takes two days. Fuel and tolls are covered by the project.

The group left early Saturday morning from Morrisville and stayed at the Gateway Baptist Church just outside of Bristol, Tenn., which is the halfway point in the journey, coming and going. While in Louisiana, they stayed in at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Chalmette, La.

The 20 Morrisville-Eaton students were divided between first-time travelers and returning volunteers. The returning students were (four times) Cassie O’Brien, (three times) Alyssa Matuszczak, Tessa Matthews and (twice) Allie Lake, Abby Hastings, Justice Armstrong, Jordan Haugli, Meghan Klish and Austin Hirsch.

Those going for the first time were Sara Collier, Lydia Frawley, Brook Warner, Jessie Carrol, Dakota Miller, Reece Daily, Taylor Leonard, David Verne, Colin Pearsall, Sierra Williams and Sandy Clark. The students were joined by Superintendent Mike Drahos, Teacher Susan Yancey and parents and community members – James Haugli, Penny Roser, LaMonte Clark, William Petrelli, Charlene Osborne, Frank Pudney, Nan Warren and Lyle Warren.

Alumnus Blake Osborne, Morrisville State College freshman Dakota Nelson, and Liverpool senior Josh Anthony also were part of the group.

While in Louisiana, the students worked on numerous projects in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and in St. Bernard Parish. The jobs included insulating and sheet rocking, building a shed and potting and planting trees to help replenish the 500,000 trees that died in Katrina’s aftermath.

The group also sided a home, which was one of the few left standing near the Industrial Canal in a neighborhood that experienced some of the greatest loss of life in Katrina’s flooding. They also installed sub-flooring and painted a building that houses the artifacts of the Canary Islanders who were the first to inhabit this part of Louisiana.

Finally, the students also cleared and secured a house that had been inhabited by squatters who had turned it into a drug haven. Now, it can be reclaimed by a family and be a positive home in the neighborhood.

Drahos, traveling with the seventh group of M-E students, commented on the latest efforts.

“Our students are remarkable ambassadors for our school and community,” he said. “They never cease to amaze me with their enthusiasm, compassion and desire to help others. Rather than relaxing for the week or hanging out with friends, they immerse themselves in grueling labor, less than ideal sleeping conditions and none of the comforts of home.

“The residents of Louisiana and the adults they work with remark that their faith in the future is restored by watching these kids.

“I also want to acknowledge the support of so many in our community who have made contributions to support our students. Never has the saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ been truer than it has been with our partnership with Operation Southern Comfort.”

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