Article posted on Operation Blessing International

SLIDELL, La. – A group of 65 students on spring break from the University of Nebraska traded their suntan lotion and days of frolicking on the beach last week for face masks and safety suits to volunteer with Operation Blessing’s disaster relief team in the New Orleans area.

After full day of house gutting and debris removal, several students went to a local laundry mat. When they forgot their detergent, a woman named Shonda came to their rescue.

“They were washing clothes,” Shonda said. “And I offered them my laundry detergent.”

Shonda thanked them for all the work they were doing in the community. When the students left to run an errand, she posted a note on the washing machine about her 84-year-old grandfather, Herbert, who needed help with his Slidell home. He didn’t have the finances to “gut” his home, which had sustained damages from three feet of water and a collapsed roof due to Katrina.

“Her grandfather had been living in his FEMA trailer and asked if our volunteers could help them out,” said Caitlin, a 20-year-old University of Nebraska student.

That evening the students submitted Shonda’s request and a work order was assigned the next day for Herbert’s home. Team leader Micah, a 19-year old University of Nebraska student, said the team went to his house and finished the job in one day. “I’ve never met a guy so grateful in my entire life.”

“It was an honor to help him with his house,” Caitlin said. “And I think that’s how the whole team feels.” This group of University of Nebraska students is one of many teams of college students and other volunteer groups who continue to come to the New Orleans area and volunteer with Operation Blessing.

“We knew the devastation and wanted to help people as much as we could. And this was the only opportunity to do such a thing,” Caitlin said. “There are just not enough hands to do the work and there’s still so much work to do.”

“It’s so hard to take it in in one day,” Micah said. “You learn a lot by seeing people’s possessions destroyed. “But,” he added, “there’s hope down here. It’s just going to be a long process.”