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connections

Interconnections Skidmore responds to Katrina
On the street
Students tour Wall St. trading floor

 

interconnections
Hurricane help

The e-mail from the Alumni Affairs Office arrived in January: “Sixteen Skidmore students left yesterday morning and are headed to New Orleans to assist with the Katrina recovery efforts, and another fourteen students will join them… This trip to New Orleans was funded, in part, by a generous gift from a Skidmore parent… The students expect to have long and difficult work days under less than comfortable conditions…” (See Lasting Impact for a report.)

The e-mail included the names of the volunteers with their class years and hometowns. The first reaction for most of us was to scan the list to see if we knew any of the students and to see where they come from. Jeannie Eddy, UWW ’03, the alumni board’s University Without Walls liaison, dropped me a note to say her student assistant Josh Keefe ’08 was on the list.

I called to talk to him. I wanted to know why. Josh replied simply, “I wanted to see it. I had the time. I wanted to be a part of it.” When the flyer went up in Case Center, he signed up with fifteen others he didn’t know. He wasn’t sure how he was going to pay for the trip, but he said he was committed and prepared. Then the anonymous support came through.

The Skidmore group wound up working in the impoverished and hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward, near where the levees broke. They stayed at the Common Ground Collective (Josh says it was “pretty communal”), where about 300 people were headquartered, 200 going out to work each day. Calls came in, help went out. They all worked hard.

Josh’s job was gutting houses. He explained, “We tore out the walls and sprayed the studs with bleach to kill the mold.” These homes are now cleaned out back to the frames, nearly ready for the rebuilding, because of kids like Josh.

Extraordinary events and ordinary people can be a powerful mix.

—Deb Sehl Coons ’72,
Alumni Association President