Mississippi College

MC Students Become Post-Gustav Volunteers

September 3, 2008

Serving meals to Louisiana evacuees and assisting with overnight security at Red Cross shelters, dozens of Mississippi College students are pitching in as storm volunteers.

Their work isn't finished with Mississippi hosting thousands of Hurricane Gustav volunteers for a couple more days until power is restored in their Louisiana communities and roads were cleared of debris.

About 25 MC students began assisting over the Labor Day weekend at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton. MC students helped comfort Louisiana residents who fled their hometowns as the powerful storm lashed the Gulf region.

MC student Jeremy Rowan, 20, a business administration major from Clinton, got busy the minute he walked in the door. "We got all the beds ready and got everybody situated and passed out food," Rowan said. "I can't be at home when there is something I can do to help others."

His dad Tim Rowan, and Mark Sandifer both were running the shelter at Morrison Heights Church. Jeremy Rowan got his first taste of disaster assistance when he worked at the Clinton church as a volunteer when Hurricane Katrina hammered portions of Louisiana and Mississippi three years ago.

At Morrison Heights Baptist Church more than 300 evacuees were housed at the shelter during Labor Day weekend. Only a few left Tuesday.

Tim Peabody, the college minister at Morrison Heights Baptist Church, said the flood of MC volunteers began Saturday - two days before Gustav slammed into south Mississippi and much of Louisiana.

Peabody truly appreciates the work of volunteers when disaster strikes. Living in Kenner, La. at the time, he was a Hurricane Katrina evacuee when the nation's worst natural disaster devastated much of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast three years ago.

The MC volunteers worked long hours at Morrison Heights and instantly welcomed the hundreds of men, women and children suddenly showing up at their doorstep. Tuesday, there were plenty of volunteers around, "but people are always welcome to stop by," Peabody said. There's always room for another good volunteer, he said.

MC's spirit of volunteerism continued on even though classes resumed Tuesday. Jeremy Rowan said he plans to return to the shelter to help after his MC classes Wednesday.

"We kept all the kids occupied. We played games," said Daniel Waide, a second-year law student at the MC School of Law in downtown Jackson." The kids loved it." It is important to help people who are displaced when disaster strikes, added the MC graduate. "It wasn't their fault they were up here."

First Baptist Church in Clinton also provided assistance to evacuees at its activities center near the MC campus. There were up to 25 evacuees at the church over the Labor Day weekend. FBC staffers say several MC students were among the volunteers. By Tuesday afternoon, one family remained at the FBC shelter. Others had moved to other shelters or hotels.

Mississippi's emergency shelters housed about 14,251 people seeking refuge from the storm. Many more were staying in hotels across the state.

MC's community was helping in other ways with a post-Gustav blood drive on the Clinton campus Wednesday and Thursday at Alumni Hall. Mississippi Blood Services spokesman Tony Bahou said the MC drive will help because a number of other blood drives were cancelled around the Magnolia State in recent days due to weather concerns.

PHOTO: Jeremy Rowan and Sarah Margaret Branning

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