Students quickly fill trip to help hurricane victims

by Carrie Myers

On Oct. 26, Rev. Chris Waddle, director of church relations, and ten students will make their way to Mississippi to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Waddle has strong connections to the area damaged by the hurricane. He was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., where his family still resides, and was a reverend on the coast of Mississippi at three different churches.

Waddle said he is shocked at the devastation.

“There are threats all the time as a basic precaution,” Waddle said. “I didn’t think much of it.”

During the hurricane, Waddle was able to keep in touch with his family using their cell phones, since all the power lines were out.

“I had just been down there three weeks before, so when I saw the footage of New Orleans, I was in shock and trying to prepare my family,” Waddle said.

Waddle said he thought about driving down himself, but realized with no gas and power, he would become part of the problem instead of helping it.

He then received an e-mail from a friend in Perkinston, Miss., who heads the United Campus Ministry at Mississippi Gulf Community College asking for help because the rural areas were not getting the supplies they needed.

Along with the help of sophomore student leaders Benay Hicks and Courtney Swanson, Waddle was able to organize a trip to Perkinston over fall break.

“It was really a collaboration of ideas between Benay and me,” Waddle said. “She had the idea to go down and approached us and it all came together.”

Hicks said God called her to lead this trip.

“One beautiful day, Courtney and I were just sitting outside, and I looked at her and I told her that we were going to go over fall break,” Hicks said. “She said OK, and that was that. We began planning from there.”

Hicks helped book the Continental Airlines flight that would take her and nine other students willing to pay $75 to travel to Mississippi. Waddle said he sent the first e-mail out, and in the same morning, the trip was completely filled.

“When I see students don’t want to pay two bucks for midnight breakfast, I was amazed at how many were willing to pay $75 to work over fall break,” Waddle said.

The group will fly to Mississippi from Kansas City. Waddle said Perkinston is an ideal place to help because it needs supplies but isn’t quarantined.

During the trip, students will tour the damage in the city and also visit the coast to see the aftermath firsthand.

“We want people to step outside themselves and their safe community to see what life is really like for some people,” Swanson said. “We can see pictures and think ‘that sucks,’ but we’ll never do anything about it until it becomes real to us.”