Le Moyne continues to help with Operation Southern Comfort
Aubree Weaver, News & Features Editor
May 3, 2012
Filed under News & Features
In response to the tragedy and devastation that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, an organization of volunteers in Central New York founded Operation Southern Comfort, a group that has dedicated itself towards “rebuilding hope for the people of the Gulf Coast by rebuilding homes one at a time.”
Operation Southern Comfort (OSC) works through churches of various denominations and numerous other community agencies to identify families in need of assistance, and to designate how to best support these efforts.
Since 2006, approximately 2,000 people have been involved in OSC trips, 140 of whom were Le Moyne College students, faculty or staff.
“Originally, I got involved with this project by pure curiosity and chance,” said senior Rebecca Gray, who first got involved with OSC her sophomore year. “I go back every year for the people. New Orleans is a city filled with friends. I have met so many families and individuals that have changed my life, my perspective and my heart. I don’t think I have ever been somewhere where the people have meant so much to me.”
CEO Norm Andrzejewski noted that the organization is entirely voluntary and there are no salaries.
“All of our money goes to buying materials or helping get people to Louisiana,” said Andrzejewski. “We’ve found that the work is its own reward, the friendships are lasting, and the income is psychic and priceless.”
To date, OSC has taken a total of 35 week-long trips — 33 to the New Orleans, La., area and two to Gulfport, Miss. Throughout these trips, volunteers have done a variety of jobs, including mucking out houses, beginning the rebuilding process (e.g. electrical work, installing sheetrock, roofing) and participating in tasks to help Katrina and Rita victims rebuild their lives.
“I’ve done all kinds of things with OSC,” said senior Margaret Donahue, who has gone on a total of three trips since 2010. “I have planted trees in the bayou to help protect the mainland from future floods, taken down toxic Chinese drywall, helped clean and de-mold a historic house, and cleaned, organized and prepped a church. I have also painted the inside and outside of All Souls Church, cleared debris that had not been cleaned since Katrina out of an abandoned house, installed drywall and tutored kids from the lower 9th ward.”
For each trip, OSC organizes sleeping arrangements, meals and travel for its volunteers. While there is a fee of $280 for participation, past volunteers have been successful in raising these funds with the help of family, friends, local businesses and other civic organizations.
In addition to signing up for a trip, people can also support OSC by joining Operation Northern Comfort, the group’s fledgling CNY component, donating money or by supporting fundraisers.
On May 5, one of these fundraisers, the fifth annual Crawfish Festival, will be held at the Chevy Court at the New York State Fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. According to Beth Scanlon of Campus Ministry, volunteers are still needed to help with this event. Transportation will be provided.
Fundraisers in the form of golf tournaments will also be held at Timber Banks in Baldwinsville, N.Y., on July 23 and at Foxfire Golf Course, also located in Baldwinsville, on Sept. 8.
“When this opportunity presented itself, I knew I couldn’t miss it,” said junior Rachel Boulio. “I got so much more out of it than I expected. Never did I expect to be so warmly accepted by the people of the St. Bernard Parish. They are able to express an appreciation that I have never seen outside of New Orleans. It is refreshing to see that people can be so humble and kind. When I’m in New Orleans, I know I’m among friends. I know I am helping people who would return the favor if I fell upon hard luck. I know I am home.”
For more information on Operation Southern Comfort and its continuing volunteer efforts, visit their website at OperationSouthernComfort.org/osc. Those interested in helping with the Crawfish Festival this weekend should contact Scanlon directly at email@example.com.