Primetime, a student-led Christian ministry affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ, and Wittenberg's Offices of the Pastor and Community Service organized trips to the Gulf Coast for the second straight year. Fourteen students participated in the community service trip, which was organized through Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), a collaborative ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), which assists individuals, families and congregations in communities helping with disaster responses across the nation.
Along with trip organizer Molly Ritchie, Americorps VISTA in Wittenberg's Office of Community Service, Gene Harvey, retired Wittenberg staff member, Bruce Leever, father of Glenn Leever, class of 2007 from Loveland, Ohio, and Dawn Stutz, president of the Clark County chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the students stayed at Camp Biloxi in Mississippi and worked on nearby homes.
"Most of us started the trip not knowing many people, but by the end of the week it was sad to leave because we all became so close," said Stephanie Rines, class of 2008 from Portland, Ind. "I learned a lot about the impact of Hurricane Katrina. That much devastation makes you re-evaluate the drama in your own life.
"You can drive along the beach and see a waffle house sign but only a foundation of the restaurant, or tile floors and drains where houses used to be."
The students gained some of the necessary construction skills during a shed build activity in Springfield in February. They officially worked from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day during spring break, but the students frequently went above and beyond the call of duty.
Toward the end of the week, the entire group participated in a reflection exercise, which helped participants understand their experience and express what they had learned.
"During the week the students really bonded and displayed great attitude and work ethic," Ritchie said.
Primetime worked in elementary schools, city parks and homes in New Orleans, cleaning out garbage and painting. Forty-nine people, including 44 Wittenberg students, took part in the trip, helping people who are still struggling to find peace in their lives and homes nearly two years after the devastating storm struck.
"It didn't appear that much progress had been made since I went on the trip last spring break and helped with gutting, painting and clean up," said Samantha Mohr, class of 2008 from Chicago, Ill. "In New Orleans, they still are not fully done gutting in the lower income areas, but very soon they will need construction skills as everywhere else seems past the gutting and mucking out stage. Next year they'll need skills like plumbing and electrical."
Arthur Kraatz, class of 2007 from Medina, Ohio, and one of the trip's organizers, shared similar sentiments.
"It seems like only 15 to 20 percent of the Gulf Coast is back to normal," said. "It was amazing to see how many students sacrificed their spring breaks for families affected by Hurricane Katrina. It impressed me."
No matter where in the Gulf Coast region the students spent their spring break, they found things in disrepair.
"The effects of Hurricane Katrina aren't on the news anymore," said Bailey Gilbert, class of 2008 from Medway, Ohio, and a participant on the LDR trip. "It's amazing the amount of damage that's still evident. I brought a big bag with tons of clothes, a hair dryer and make-up, but when I was there none of that stuff seemed to matter.
"I expected more to have been done on the Gulf Coast, but there's still so much to be done."
Written By: Dani Nicholson '07 and Ryan Maurer
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