Central New York Students Volunteer Over Spring Break

Pictured in back from left are Calvin Lucey McCabe, Sebastian Pendleton-Witherspoon, Charles Campbell-Decock, Ignas Bakanauskas, Brandon Episcipo, Walter Stokes, Alex Clark, Nicholas Krause, Matt Roher, Dan Hilts and Joe Popino. In the third row from left: Jennifer Reed, Raymond Mosher, Frank Pudney, Michael Drahos, Michael Day, Marlon Brown, Carrie Eastman and Deborah Raymond. In the second row from left are Madeleine Lemal-Brown, Sabrina Rebuck, Emeline Jones, Coral Dennis, Clara Jones, Sarah Foster and Susan Yancey. First row from left: Halley McArn, Natalie Raymond, Sara Collier, Brook Warner, Shelby Brown and Brooke Brown.1) At churchdinner hall

Pictured on the porch from left are Susan Yancey, Frank Pudney, Raymond Mosher, Marlon Brown, Brandon Episcipo, Reisie Murchison, Sebastian Pendleton-Witherspoon, Madeleine Lemal-Brown, Jim Murray, Walter Stokes, Ignas Bakanauskas, Joe Popino, Charles Campbell-Decock, Halley McArn, Alex Clark, Carrie Eastman, Nicholas Krause, Michael Drahos, Jennifer Reed, Michael Day and Deborah Raymond. On the stairs (left row, from bottom): Coral Dennis, Natalie Raymond, Brook Warner, Brooke Brown and Shelby Brown. On stairs (center row, from bottom): Dan Hilts, Matt Roher and Calvin Lucey-McCabe. On stairs (right row, from bottom): Clara Jones, Sara Collier, Emeline Jones, Sabrina Rebuck and Sarah Foster.

Marlon Brown, Matt Roher and Dan Hilts install cabinets a2) Danielle's Houst Danielle’s house

4) salinity wellStudents watch Dr. Rich Goyer place a salinity monitoring well along a nature trail in St. Bernard Parish.

Morrisville-Eaton Central Schools

Submitted by Mike Drahos and Mike Day

(Morrisville, Hamilton, NY – April 2013) Twenty-four students from Morrisville-Eaton Central and Hamilton Central schools spent their spring vacation working on two homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish Louisiana.

They also assisted in an effort to restore the wetlands area by making salinity well monitoring systems and weeding sapling cypress trees. The trip was sponsored by Operation Southern Comfort (operationsoutherncomfort.org) out of Liverpool. This was the 48th trip to the Gulf Coast sponsored by the organization.

By being part of this effort, the students learned how volunteering to help those in needs can be one of life’s most gratifying experiences.

Morrisville-Eaton was making its eighth trip as part of Operation Southern Comfort. The students included Brook Warner and Sara Collier who were going for a second time. The first-time students were: Brooke Brown, Shelby Brown, Dan Hilts, Matthew Roher, Nick Krause, Brandon Episcipo, Walter Stokes, Joe Popino, Alex Clark, Carrie Eastman and Natalie Raymond.

The adults supervising this group were Superintendent Michael Drahos (10th trip), business/home & careers teacher Sue Yancey (second trip), teacher aide/parent Deb Raymond and parent Marlon Brown and volunteer Raymond Mosher from Syracuse (second trip).

Traveling from Hamilton were Ignas Bakanauskas, Coral Dennis, Sarah Foster, Clara Jones, Emeline Jones, Madeleine Lemal-Brown, Calvin Lucey-McCabe, Halley McArn, Sebastian Pendleton-Witherspoon, Sabrina Rebuck and Charles Campbell-Decock.

Adults supervising this trip were Hamilton French teacher Michael Day, who organized the trip for the students and was assisted during the week by Hamilton school psychologist Jennifer Reed and Frank Pudney from Sherburne, who was making his third Operation Southern Comfort trip.

Working on a home, which is the fourth to be entirely constructed by Operation Southern Comfort, was the primary goal for the week. The home belongs to Reisie Murcheson or, as she likes to say, for her adopted special-needs daughter Danielle. Reisie’s father, Jim Murray (Paw Paw) also was a mainstay of building this home.

The group referred to the house as ‘Danielle’s house’ for the entire week. Electrical wiring, floors, door frames, doors, painting, cabinets, pouring a cement sidewalk and countless other projects were accomplished during the week. While the group was unable to quite finish, there are probably only three or four more days of work to be done before the family can move in.

Joe Vannison’s home is in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which suffered the greatest destruction and loss of life after Katrina. His neighborhood looks like a war zone because most homes were in such a state of disrepair that the city has condemned and demolished them.

OSC has done a lot of work on his home to keep Joe’s from becoming another statistic. During this trip, the flooring needed to be pulled up, the support beams leveled and the floor nailed back down. Additional work on creating support for the roof and yard work were also done.

The group was also part of an environmental restoration effort that OSC was working on. The group worked weeding many cypress trees that been potted for replanting. More than a half-million trees were destroyed as a result of Katrina, making the area vulnerable to future flooding and hurricane damage.

The students also built salinity monitoring wells to place in the environment to test and see if the ground would support of the new habitat.

The week included a visit to the French Quarter one evening. Students were able to visit Jackson Square, the French Market, got a quick tour of Bourbon Street and then enjoyed a meal in the city. They also had the opportunity to meet with students from Chalmette High School. Chalmette is the high school in St. Bernard Parish that now houses what used to be three high schools in the Parish.

They were invited to a tech rehearsal for an upcoming play and had cake and ice cream as they socialized. The students made quick friends, and many Facebook contacts were established.

As mentioned, this trip is the 48th for OSC. More than 2,000 Central New York volunteers have helped in this effort. The entire week was a transformational experience for many of the students. Many of them took an opportunity on the final night to share how meaningful the experience was during a candlelight gathering, which is the final event of every trip.

Mike Drahos and Mike Day are Operation Southern Comfort volunteers.

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