Karen Overstreet, Merrill, Thomas A. | 5/17/2005 12:53:18 AM
Coastal issues affect everyone, not just south Louisiana. That was one of the messages received by more than 100 members of a group of LSU AgCenter volunteers during recent workshops in Cocodrie.
Members of Louisiana Volunteers for Family and Community Inc. from as far away as Bossier and Morehouse parishes met at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) late last month to learn firsthand about some of the issues along the coast.
"This volunteer group has a long-standing partnership with the LSU AgCenter," says LSU AgCenter extension specialist Dr. Karen Overstreet, who serves as adviser to the group.
Formerly known as the extension homemakers council, the group now focuses more on volunteer and community leadership concerns – and its members take active roles in helping make their communities better places to live, Overstreet said.
"Part of their ongoing educational program is to learn about various industries and issues affecting Louisiana," Overstreet said, explaining that the April 20-22 workshop at LUMCON was the second for the group.
The group’s first workshop to look at coastal issues came on Sept. 11-12, 2001 – encompassing the day of terrorist activity in this country now known as 9-11.
"That was a sobering experience for everyone," says Overstreet. "The participants were glued to the television between classes and became acutely aware of the value the Louisiana coast and the petroleum industry have to national security."
Despite the cloud over the 2001 workshop, participants were eager to return, according to Overstreet, who says the classes were taught by both LUMCON and LSU AgCenter faculty.
"In addition, group members Rena Labat from Terrebonne Parish and Katherine Richardelle from Lafourche Parish brought the points home with their knowledge and passionate descriptions from personal and family experiences," Overstreet said, adding, "The group was stunned by an old photo of a cotton plantation and descriptions of citrus groves around Leeville – points now nearly under water."
The workshop participants also got firsthand looks at some of the restoration work along the coast, as well as chances to learn about the marine life in the area, through boat trips into the bay.
Other activities included learning to read and compare aerial photos of coastal areas to see changes in the land, using the microscopes to check out plankton and other organisms in the gulf waters and learning about the seafood industry and its value to the economy.
Since hurricanes and other disasters have such an impact on Louisiana, participants also had the opportunity to learn about disaster preparedness from Pat Skinner, LSU AgCenter disaster programs coordinator. After 9-11, communities now think of disasters in broader terms than just storms, Skinner pointed out, and participants were urged to develop emergency plans with their families before disaster strikes.
For information on the variety of activities undertaken by the Louisiana Volunteers for Family and Community Inc. or other leadership and volunteer programs of the LSU AgCenter, contact your parish’s LSU AgCenter Extension office.