Staff members volunteer in Gulf Coast for hurricane relief
As he watched the distressing images on television in late August of
the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Chris Carter decided he needed to do
something to help.
"I was left with this nagging desire to demonstrate that the fears expressed by some of the people on the Gulf — that no one cared about them, that they were being forgotten — were not true," said Carter, who is the associate director of Princeton's government affairs office in Washington, D.C. "I thought about the range of things I could do, including writing a check, which is what I typically would do. But then I thought, could I do something more?"
Carter considered traveling to Louisiana to volunteer, but he wasn't
sure how he could manage the trip financially if he took a leave of
absence from work. Then he received an e-mail outlining a new
University policy that would enable him to help. Princeton's
Humanitarian Relief Effort Policy, announced four days after the
hurricane hit, provides University employees with the chance to take a
two-week paid leave to volunteer with agencies working in the Gulf
"There was my opportunity," Carter said.
He immediately contacted the Red Cross and arranged to participate
in an expedited training session. He departed for the region on Sept.
Carter is one of eight Princeton employees who are already in the
Gulf Coast doing volunteer work or who are making arrangements to go.
"There has been such an expression of wanting to help from employees," said Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for human resources, who is administering the policy. "One of the ways Princeton can support that is to allow people the room to help in their own way."
Michael Maita, who works at the facilities department's customer
service center, is waiting to learn when he will be leaving for the
area. Maita already has training in emergency and disaster services as
a Red Cross volunteer. He also helped with hurricane relief during the
three years when he was a Marine.
"I know it will be a very stressful environment, but I think I'm as
prepared as I can be," said Maita, who has worked at the University
since 2002. "People there have lost everything at once — homes,
families, schools. It's time for us all to chip in and help."
The Rev. Paul Raushenbush said he felt his skills as a religious
counselor who has worked with people of different faiths would be
helpful to victims of the hurricane. Raushenbush was scheduled to
travel to Houston on Sept. 25 to work with the Interfaith Ministries of
Greater Houston, which is helping those who have been placed in
long-term temporary housing to get acclimated to life in Houston. He
also is offering chaplaincy services to elderly victims who are in
shelters in Houston.
"It will feel so good to do something," Raushenbush said. "I've
given money, but to actually go down there and feel like I'm offering a
small amount of help is great. Part of the University's mission is to
offer service to other citizens."
Trey Green, who is a technical support specialist in the Office of
the Dean of the College and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate
Students, just returned from spending two weeks in his home state of
Louisiana with the Red Cross. He went to Baton Rouge, where he worked
14-hour days procuring supplies like forklifts, portable toilets and
mobile shower trailers. The area has 130 shelters housing more than
20,000 hurricane victims.
"It was a huge challenge to get supplies into the area," Green said.
"We were calling local businesses, asking vendors to share resources.
The phones were always tied up, so you had to be patient. At times the
task seemed overwhelming, but you could see everyone keep pushing to
get what was needed."
He spent his days at a makeshift office set up in a former Wal-Mart
store, working with volunteers from Minnesota, Alaska, California and
Wyoming, among other places. At the beginning of Green's second week, a
new member joined his team -- Peter Stalker, a member of Princeton's
class of 1980 from New Canaan, Conn.
The volunteers were forced to be inventive. When they couldn't
locate any pre-fabricated shower trailers, someone came up with the
idea of converting a mobile contamination treatment unit into showers.
Green's visit to a shelter in Gonzales, La., that housed 1,000 people was poignant.
"Everyone there looked a little glazed over," he remembered. "It's sobering when you see these folks."
Only when he returned to Princeton did Green realize how exhausted
he was from the two weeks of non-stop work. But he is grateful for the
opportunity he had to help.
"As tough and as frustrating as it was, I would do another three weeks if I could go back," he said.
Sandra Hambrecht is working on arranging a trip to the Gulf Coast to put to use her skills as a trained veterinary assistant.
"I have a very strong love for animals and a strong sympathy for
people who were forced to leave their pets behind," said Hambrecht, a
bibliographic specialist in Firestone Library. "I hope I will be able
to reunite animals with people."
Wayne Bayles, a building access control manager in the TigerCard
Office, is scheduled to leave for the region on Oct. 1. He has no idea
what the Red Cross will have him do once he gets there, but he doesn't
mind pitching in on any chore.
"Our office is very proud of Wayne and not at all surprised that he
volunteered," said his supervisor, Elisabeth Dahlen. "He looks for ways
to contribute to his country."
"I just want to help as best as I can," Bayles said. "If I help one person, I will have accomplished what I set out to do."