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SOUTHERN MISS HATTIESBURG FACULTY, STAFF REACH OUT TO HELP COAST COLLEAGUES RECOVER FROM STORM

Date    11-17-05
Contact David Tisdale (601) 266-4499

 

LONG BEACH -- Carole White smiled approvingly at the large pile of debris – an unwelcome assortment of mementos from Hurricane Katrina - at the end of her driveway, the result of cleanup efforts by some of her colleagues from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus.

"It's the best pile on the street," said White, an admissions counselor at the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Student Service Center, as a crew left her Pecan Wood Cove home in Long Beach and headed to their next assignment.

A group from the Hattiesburg campus has gone to the coast regularly on weekends to help fellow employees recover from the Aug. 29 storm, taking on such tasks as clearing or throwing away debris, cutting and removing downed tree limbs, moving furniture and other possessions and tearing out molded drywall or floors.

For White, getting her home and yard back to pre-Katrina conditions has proven to be a challenge as she tries to juggle work at the university and then doing what she can after work and on weekends. With the recent fall daylight-saving time change, the task has become more difficult, with less hours of light to work with. She lost four to five trees in the storm, causing severe damage to her roof.

White got help clearing her yard of branches, limbs and roof tile, among other items. And after Saturday's cleanup party, finishing the task seems less daunting to her.

"I was so happy I almost cried," she said when recounting the phone call from Mary Beth Applin, MLIS, an associate professor of library sciences in Hattiesburg, telling her she was next on the schedule to get help. "It's the best thing to happen to me since the storm, even better than getting my insurance check."

Colleagues, heroes

Dr. Eric Luce, associate professor in the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Division of Education and Psychology, said his Hattiesburg colleagues are no less than heroes for their efforts to help after helping tear out wet and molded insulation, drywall and other material from the first floor of Luce's Ocean Springs home.

"It was like the cavalry arriving, just in time," Luce said. "They must have worked six solid hours in just that first week they were there.”

“When there's so much to do, and you're standing there throwing away your possessions, it tends to paralyze you and it slows your progress,” he said.

Homes away from home

More than 100 Southern Miss Gulf Coast faculty and staff were displaced by the killer storm, and many are still unable to return to their homes. Some have no home to return to.

Luce had to take up accommodations at one of the Pine Haven Apartments on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus after the storm. His dog Maggie, a golden beagle, has also had to make do with new living arrangements, as she currently takes residence at Webster's "Bed and Bone" in Woolmarket.

"When I'm not teaching or cleaning up my house, I take advantage of visitation rights to see Maggie," Luce joked. "Lots of people on the coast are in the same situation, having to make arrangements for their pets to stay at kennels, with relatives or with friends."

Despite his ordeal, Luce hasn't lost his sense of humor or his perspective.

"I now have the loft apartment I’ve always wanted, just not in SoHo," he said, referring to his home's gutted first floor.

Then quickly, he counts as good fortune that he has a home to salvage - not so the case with many of his neighbors. "Because of the volunteers from the Hattiesburg campus and others, my house was probably saved," he said.

Just being there for a co-worker means as much emotionally as does the physical help, said Southern Miss Gulf Coast history professor Dr. J. Pat Smith, who has helped link Hattiesburg faculty and staff with coast employees needing assistance.

Smith praised the ongoing efforts to help his coast co-workers, citing how "total strangers have reached out to help with unimaginably nasty and unbelievable and physically difficult tasks."

"Cleaning out a house that has been ruined by foul flood waters, cutting up giant trees, dragging a whole house full of furniture to the street, helping a person who has lost it all to sort through the rubbish to salvage a few photos or personal remembrances of life pre-Katrina - it's amazing that human beings will rise to give such gifts."

Southern Miss Hattiesburg foreign language professor Dr. Bill Powell, who also serves as president of the Faculty Senate, said he and other volunteers from the Hattiesburg campus are committed to coming back as long as there is a need.

"It's such an overwhelming task here on the coast," said Powell, in between chain sawing large tree limbs in White's back yard. "Everyone needs help."

About The University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss, with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.

For more information, contact David Tisdale at (601) 266-4499.


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Last updated: 12/23/05

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