Mark A. Schexnayder, Merrill, Thomas A., Schmit, Rene G., Morgan, Johnny W. | 12/17/2005 12:10:13 AM
As the cleanup from this summer’s hurricanes continues, LSU AgCenter agents are helping coordinate the work of people who are coming to the rescue.
Among those were 30 students from The Ohio State University who arrived in Louisiana earlier this week (Dec. 11-17) ready to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to clean up parts of hurricane-ravaged South Louisiana.
"The students arrived ready to pitch in wherever they were needed," said Mark Schexnayder, who heads the LSU AgCenter’s Hurricane Katrina Task Force. "But before they arrived, I had been coordinating with our agents in several parishes so we could make their time most valuable."
Plans for the students’ visit began earlier this year when Dennis Hall, an extension specialist from Ohio State’s Cooperative Extension Service, made contact with Louisiana officials and said he wanted to bring a work crew down to help with the cleanup.
Schexnayder said this visit fits well with plans LSU AgCenter officials are trying to develop for further cooperation of this type involving partners from land-grant university partners and others across the country.
In this case, the Ohio State students were divided into teams and sent out to various locations – based on contacts LSU AgCenter agents had made in areas heaviest hit by the storm to find people who needed help. The students worked in Washington, St. Tammany and Plaquemines parishes, as well as the city of New Orleans, and performed projects ranging from general cleanup to helping farmers rebuild fences.
LSU AgCenter county agents Alan Vaughn of Plaquemines Parish said it was amazing to see what these students were doing in this time of need.
"These students could be back in their hometowns enjoying their Christmas break, but they gave up a week of rest to come down here and work really hard," Vaughn said, adding, "We can’t thank them enough."
Ohio State’s Hall, who not only helped to organize the trip but also accompanied to group on the work detail, said some of the students had given up trips and others gave up jobs just to come down and help out.
"We have all types of majors represented," Hall said, explaining the majority of the students were agricultural majors but that the group also included those in early childhood development, English and art. "It just boils down to students who wanted to help out."
Jenna Genson, an agriculture education major at Ohio State, said she felt that the people of Louisiana needed her help more than she needed to be at home working to make money for college.
Genson and the other students like Laura Stacklin, who also is an agriculture education major, said they felt obligated to help out and that they hoped Louisiana students would do the same for them if their state’s people were in need.
"I have never been involved in a relief effort, but I knew we could do a lot with 30 people working eight-hour days," Stacklin said. "We’re putting in about 240 man hours of work each day for five days, so that should make a difference."
One of the places the students had a chance to work was at Green Thumb Nursery in Folsom, which is owned by Buster Mizzell. Mizell, who recently made a bad move lifting some material and cracked a vertebrae in his back, said he needed all the help he could get.
"It would have taken me months to do the amount of work these young people did in one day. I’m just thankful for them," Mizzell said while looking over the nursery grounds. "I just hope, if they are ever in need of help, our people will go up and return the favor."
At the nursery, the students were dumping dead azalea plants, and they had cleaned and stacked over 18,000 pots in one day. They also performed tasks for others like picking up downed citrus fruit, cleaning up around houses and much more.
"The work is hard, but the feeling that we get from helping makes it worthwhile," Stacklin said, adding, "Plus, Buster gave us a great lunch."
Even before the Ohio State students left, Schexnayder and LSU AgCenter agents in St. Charles, Plaquemines, Orleans, St. Tammany and Washington parishes already were coordinating work for a Mennonite group from Iowa that plans to arrive in the state on Dec. 26 to begin helping out.
According to Rene Schmit, the LSU AgCenter’s county agent in St. Charles Parish, that group will be setting up a long-term operation.
"While they are here, I will be helping them to make some contacts for the Mennonite Disaster Services, who will set up shop in the New Orleans area long-term (2-3 years), to help folks rebuild their houses and their lives," Schmit said.
Mark Schexnayder at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rusty Batty at (985) 875-2635 or email@example.com
Rene Schmit at (985) 785-4473 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnny Morgan at (225) 281-0814 or email@example.com
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or firstname.lastname@example.org