Images of horrific damage and destruction beamed their way to our televisions as soon as Hurricane Katrina had made landfall in the Gulf Coast states. This unprecedented coverage of a natural disaster struck a chord within our own community and mobilized many people who had a passion to help. At Minnesota State and in the surrounding Mankato area, people united to help those stricken by the hurricane and the annihilation it left in its wake.
One of the first to organize was the Student Leadership Development & Service Learning Office. Headed by Kelly Meier, this office started assembling care packages for displaced children as early as Aug. 30. These care packages were created with utility in mind and included items that children would actually use.
Volunteers assembled about 1,200 care packages Wednesday, which included coloring books, crayons, a granola or snack bar, a reading book and fruit snacks or candy. Items were donated by Valley News, Wal-Mart, Hy-Vee, area residents, students and student organizations. Students in the Madelia school district will write 1,200 personal letters and stuff them in the care packages.
The care packages will then be sent to Camp Ripley near St. Cloud, Minn., where about 3,000 displaced people will stay. If you are still interested in helping with this cause, cash donations are still being accepted to be used toward shipping costs.
The co-ed service fraternity on-campus, Alpha Phi Omega (APO), is also helping. The Mankato chapter is initiating a nationwide relief effort with other APO chapters to aid the hurricane victims. The chapter that raises the most money by Nov. 2 will receive the Nu Pi Humanitarian Award. Looking to switch things up a bit and provide a unique fundraiser, the fraternity will also host a 24-hour Swing-A-Thon starting 3 p.m. Saturday. This event will be held at Highland Park, located on Warren Street.
?There will be music and fun and will hopefully bring in a lot of money for these victims,? said Melissa Donndelinger, a member of APO. ?This Swing-A-Thon will be the true essence of the word, incorporating both swing dancing and swinging at the playground.?
Also, the MSU Kiwanis Club plans on journeying to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding effort.
At the administrative level, several steps have been taken to aid those stricken. A flurry of activity has happened at MSU, with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities? allotment of tuition aid and spending money to the evacuees.
One student ? Fay Usuf ? victimized by the hurricane has already enrolled at MSU (see other front-page story). MnSCU expects that its 53 colleges and universities can accommodate 300 displaced students.
Various colleges and universities were struck by Katrina, displacing not only students but staff. Staff members from Loyola, Tulane, and Xavier universities have been offered adjunct teaching positions within the psychology department.
Another noticeable change has already taken place on campus. Both United States and Minnesota state flags will be lowered to half-staff until Sept. 20 in order to honor victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The Counseling Center is also offering a support forum for students affected directly or indirectly Sept. 16. The location has yet to be announced.
Finally, on the city scale, two local firefighters are headed south to help with the relief effort. Jay Kopischke and Glen Cansler will first travel to Atlanta, where they will receive training specific to the situations they may encounter. After this, they will be deployed to a hard-hit area of the coast to work for at least 30 days. They are just one of 1,000 two-person teams called for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the ?rescue and recovery? process.
Media relations senior Chelsie Hoven?s father, Gary, a Ramsey County Deputy Sheriff, went to New Orleans Wednesday.
?It makes you worry,? Hoven said. ?But he?s been a cop for 27 years.?
Hoven said she isn?t sure what her father will do but will likely stay in New Orleans for two to three weeks and go door-to-door to search for those who were unable to escape the hurricane.
?It warms my heart to see Minnesota working to send supplies and food down there,? said Usuf. ?That reminds me how great this country is.?
Daryl Lawrence is a Reporter staff writer