In the second spring after Hurricane Katrina, more than 10,000 college students and other volunteers once again have skipped spring break’s traditional beachfront bacchanal and instead poured into metropolitan New Orleans to work hard. It’s a volunteer wave that will reach its high point in the next week or so and continue into April before tailing off.
But this year is markedly different in the sophistication of the agencies managing the influx of volunteers, and in the work they are being sent out to do.
Once again, the volunteers represent the full roster of American higher education, from the University of Texas to Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, N.C., to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Travis Scruggs, a relief coordinator at First Baptist Church of New Orleans, said he had bookings for 1,000 volunteers in March. Catholic Charities is full, with 1,200 incoming volunteers, said Joan Diaz, director of Operation Helping Hands.
“This is not falling off,” said Courtney Cowart, who directs storm relief for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. “If we had more capacity for housing people, we’d have even more volunteers than we do.”
We’ll be joining the volunteers very shortly. It’s not too late to come with us.