December 02, 2004
FEMA NEWS: STUDENTS SPEND THANKSGIVING HELPING ALABAMA HURRICANE VICTIMS
Students Spend Thanksgiving Helping Alabama Hurricane Victims
Release Date: December 2, 2004
Release Number: FNF-04-036
MOBILE, Ala. — Forty students from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, spent their Thanksgiving in Mobile so they could be of service to residents still needing help following Hurricane Ivan. Their efforts were coordinated by the National Relief Network, which matches volunteers with those in need following major disasters.
“We tried to help as many families as we could while we were in Alabama,” said Scott Harding, executive director of the National Relief Network. “Rewarding as it was for the people that we served, it was equally rewarding for the students who helped.”
Accompanied by 10 chaperones, the students from Bishop Miege High School traveled overnight by bus to St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Mobile. The church’s gym served as a base camp while they were in town.
The volunteers spent their days helping to apply protective tarps and removing debris from yards. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Disaster Help Alabama had previously identified 35 to 50 households in Mobile County that needed help.
Students worked Wednesday through Friday, taking a half-day off on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving. In the evenings and on Saturday, they enjoyed recreational activities and sightseeing.
“We tried to give them a feeling for the area and let them see the beauty here, too,” Harding said.
Students contributed to their trip costs, paying $350 each, much of which was generated by their own fund-raising activities.
Harding started the National Relief Network, based in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was working for Amway during the 1993 Midwest Floods when he was moved by a television story of victims returning to their damaged home. “My heart went out to them,” he said.
Harding estimates the network has helped in 40 to 50 disaster recovery operations. Approximately 50 groups, most of them high schools and churches, have volunteered. Many participate more than once, including Bishop Miege, which was making its third trip to a disaster area to lend a helping hand.