Lauren Faust, Burgess, Wayne, Vaughn, James A. | 3/17/2007 2:29:48 AM
Collegiate 4-H members from 34 schools in 27 states converged on St. Bernard Parish last month to lend a helping hand in the recovery effort.
Having a community service project is part of the group’s national conference each year. With this year’s conference being held in Baton Rouge Feb. 15-18, the students had a chance to help with ongoing hurricane recovery efforts in the New Orleans area.
The volunteer effort was coordinated by LSU AgCenter agents Wayne Burgess, Lauren Faust and Alan Vaughn.
The students worked in three locations in the parish to help make things look more like normal again. Faust said the idea for the group coming to St. Bernard came from two LSU Collegiate 4-H members brainstorming on what they could do.
"My godchild is friends with Patrick Voorhies, an LSU grad student who was one of the convention planners," Faust explained. "He told Patrick to give my aunt a call to see if we had any projects that they could work on."
Faust said there were many projects that needed some hands, but the only problem was that the group of nearly 150 students could only come and work for four hours. That’s when the mad scramble started.
"We knew the high school needed some help getting their landscape back together, and we knew the park needed some work," Burgess said. "And there was the landscape project in Arabi."
He and Vaughn said it wasn’t long before they had worked out a plan to immediately put the students to work in each of the locations as soon as they arrived.
"They were doing work that needs to be done, but the parish just doesn’t have the manpower to get it done," Vaughn said.
He calculated the value of the amount of work the students did during that one four-hour period was more than $11,000.
The project at the high school is the first part of a three-phase project, according to Burgess. "This first phase involves spreading mulch as a bed for plants that will be set out," he said.
During the second phase, concrete will be poured and benches will be added at the school. Then in phase three, there will be a greenhouse built at the school so salt-tolerant coastal plants can he grown on site.
Charles Cassar, the coordinator of cultural arts for St. Bernard Schools, said the work being done at the school is part of a grant from Shell Oil Co. – with help from the LSU AgCenter and some state funding.
"We will take an area between the two buildings here on campus to create a landscaped, environmentally friendly and aesthetically attractive meeting space for kids," he said.
Cassar said with the amount of destruction that these kids have experienced, there’s a need to have a nice place.
"Truly, the (LSU) Agricultural Center has acted in its intended purpose of advisory and of support in helping to make a better agricultural environment in this very limited urban setting," Cassar said.
Voorhies, who served as national conference co-coordinator for the Collegiate 4-H meeting, said the Louisiana chapter had a bid in to host the conference in New Orleans before Katrina.
"After the storm we decided that we still wanted to host it, so it was held in Baton Rouge this year," he explained.
He said LSU Student Government provided transportation for the students to go to Chalmette for the work day. And, after they finished working, they were rewarded with a trip to the French Quarter and Downtown New Orleans – where they caught several parades during the Mardi Gras celebrations.
4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant universities and is operated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. Through educational projects and activities, it strives to help young people develop knowledge and skills that will benefit them, their families and their communities.
Lauren Faust at (504) 278-4234 or email@example.com
Wayne Burgess at (504) 278-4234 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Vaughn at (504) 278-4234 or email@example.com
Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org