Spring Hill students begin to ‘Weave the Social Fabric’ in Bayou La Batre

Tue, 01/30/2007 (All day)

Aug 21, 2006

By Lindsay O’Quin
Assistant Director of Communication

MOBILE — As part of Spring Hill College’s commitment to its 2006-2007 annual theme, 35 freshmen devoted their last Sunday before classes to hurricane relief work in Bayou La Batre, Ala.

Spring Hill’s newest students, along with 10 faculty and staff and six freshman seminar leaders, set out on Aug. 20 to live the college’s theme for this year: “Weaving the Social Fabric: Restoring, Rebuilding, Renewing Our Gulf Coast Communities.” 

Maureen Bergan, director of campus ministry, explained to the group of freshmen and other volunteers Spring Hill’s long-term commitment to Bayou La Batre and why the group was there to serve. “Bayou La Batre is a place that has been ripped apart,” she said, “and today we are the thread in God’s hands to help put it back together.”

Once in Bayou La Batre, the volunteers were split into four groups to tackle several projects. One large group traveled by bus to gut a family’s house that had been damaged by 4 1/2 feet of water. Another group sanded and painted the interior of a family’s home, which had already been gutted. A smaller group put their skills to use by painting the exterior of a family’s home. The fourth group worked on beatifying Bayou La Batre’s city hall and fire station by landscaping, planting flowers, and building park benches.

In addition to the service commitment, Spring Hill College purchased all the supplies required to complete the projects, including paintbrushes, paint, rollers and plants. The college also supplied garden and power tools, masks and gloves necessary to perform the tasks.

Because many of the freshmen were not from the Gulf Coast, the service trip was their first glimpse of the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused. Many students said they had watched reports on television as the tragedy unfolded, but after a few months the updates had faded from the news. 

For other students, the service trip was a way for them to say thank you to those who had helped them in their time of need.

“Normally we’re on the other side, giving donations and collecting clothes,” said freshman Michelle Blanchet of Lafayette, La. “But, people did so much to help my family, and now it’s my turn to help. So, it’s a cycle of giving.”

Jamie Cousin, a freshman from east New Orleans, was part of the group that helped to gut the family’s home, a moving experience for her and many others in the group.

“I was so happy to be there to help get their memories back,” Cousin said. “I hit the wall, and this little Christmas ornament rolled out, and I almost cried. I am so grateful to the people who gutted my house and salvaged some of our memories, and I’m so glad that I could do this for someone else.”

Dr. David Sauer, professor of English, worked on the park benches for city hall and the fire department. “We were assigned a beautification effort, and at first we thought maybe we should be doing something more substantial. But, then I realized that this is exactly what Bayou La Batre needs,” said Sauer, whose family home in Waveland, Miss., was destroyed in the hurricane. “Very little has been done in Waveland since the storm, and it would be nice to have something pretty there.”

Katie Hawkins, a senior from Jackson, Miss., served as a freshman seminar leader. Hawkins said seeing how the Spring Hill community has reached out to those affected by the hurricane in the past year confirmed for her why she was at Spring Hill. 

“This has really strengthened my reasons for being here,” Hawkins told the group as they reflected on their experiences. “I am so proud to be a part of this community, and I am so proud of everyone here.”

Spring Hill College will continue relief work in Bayou La Batre on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14. For more information, call the office of Campus Ministry at (251) 380-3495 or visit www.shc.edu.