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20 students travel to New Orleans to assist in rebuilding efforts

By the time 20 Austin Peay State University students left hurricane-stricken New Orleans, footings for six houses had been shoveled by their hands, and all of the Habitat for Humanity storage units were painted with beautiful murals to identify the work site as a place of hope.

The APSU Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) group traveled with members from First Baptist Church, Clarksville to help the First Baptist Church of New Orleans congregation rebuild one the states major cities.
By the time 20 Austin Peay State University students left hurricane-stricken New Orleans, footings for six houses had been shoveled by their hands, and all of the Habitat for Humanity storage units were painted with beautiful murals to identify the work site as a place of hope.

The APSU Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) group traveled with members from First Baptist Church, Clarksville to help the First Baptist Church of New Orleans congregation rebuild one the state's major cities.

The project was coordinated through Habitat for Humanity in Louisiana, which is charged with the construction of 700 new homes in New Orleans.

The students gave up their spring break March 6-10 to participate in the mission that also included the cleanup of three families' houses.

“The group was able to visit with many residents and to hear the stories of what they had been through,” said APSU student Kelsey Roark, who participated in the effort.

At some of the residences, Roark said nothing was salvageable. And volunteers who went inside the flood-damaged homes had to wear hazardous material suits to avoid being exposed to mold and toxic water.

“Since the water levels rose 10 feet in places and stayed for so long, the mold was allowed to grow to extreme levels,” Roark said. “The team had to be careful while inside the houses. The air could be dangerous.”

In addition to Roark, other students who forfeited spring break to assist in New Orleans included the following: Lee Billings, Christin Carter, Tami Devries, Lindsay Ellis, Jennifer Gloyd, Tina Gould, Jason Grammer, Daniel Gregory, Chris Head, Josh Porter, Betsy Prusynski, Christina Redd, Aaron Ruley, Kelsey Roark, Mary Schoenbachler, Rachelle Simpkins, Sara Simpkins, Eric Simpson, Ben Tarver and Beth Turner. Jim Alexander, BCM minister, also participated.

Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast in late August 2005. Although cleanup efforts continue, Ellis said much damage still could be seen.

“It was hard to comprehend,” Ellis said, recalling the moment the group entered New Orleans. “Seeing what had happened made me feel so much pain for these people.

“Being able to get my hands dirty was overwhelming emotionally. It was hard every day, but it was so worth it.”

Roark said members in her group were “strongly affected” by the trip, but they hope to return this fall or next spring.

Roark has developed a photo display of the group's efforts in New Orleans. The exhibit can be viewed in the lobby of Woodward Library on the APSU campus. Photos also can be seen at www.apsu.edu/bcm. -- Melony Leazer