Bulldog spirit at work: MSU students help flood victims rebuild

Six Mississippi State students recently teamed with members of Slidell, Louisiana-based nonprofit The Epworth Project to gut a house in Ponchatoula, one of many cities that experienced widespread damage due to last month’s historic flooding in south Louisiana. From left, the team of volunteers included senior building construction science major Regan E. Horn of Slidell, Louisiana; junior building construction science major Cora N. Howell of Kitty Lake, Alaska; Mitch Bearden with The Epworth Project; junior building construction science major Justin R. McKenzie of Hernando; junior building construction science major Jonathan L. “Jon Luke” Cave of Eads, Tennessee; sophomore mechanical engineering major Nicholas R. “Nick” Eldred of Slidell, Louisiana; Rick Eldred with The Epworth Project; freshman business administration major Ryan C. Hammers of Brentwood, Tennessee; and Ron Davis with The Epworth Project. (Photo submitted by Laura Mitchell)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—As thousands recover from last month’s historic flooding in south Louisiana and Mississippi, members of the Mississippi State Bulldog family are lending a hand to ease that process.

Senior Regan E. Horn from Slidell, Louisiana, said while her family’s home just north of New Orleans did not receive damage, she empathizes for the many others in her home state who were affected. Driven to make a difference, she sought ways to use her building construction science skills to help those in need.

“Mississippi State teaches you to have a great sense of heart,” said Horn, who aspires to a career in disaster relief. “MSU has given us so much, and it was nice to be able to give to somebody else.”

With encouragement from MSU Visiting Assistant Professor Mike Duff, Horn organized a volunteer experience recently for students in her building construction studio III course.

Horn and three classmates were joined by sophomore mechanical engineering major Nicholas R. “Nick” Eldred of Slidell, Louisiana, and freshman business administration major Ryan C. Hammers of Brentwood, Tennessee, as well as members of The Epworth Project, a Slidell-based disaster relief nonprofit for whom Horn previously worked for several years.

Junior building construction science major Cora N. Howell of Kitty Lake, Alaska, was among a group of Mississippi State students who assisted with home repairs following last month’s historic flooding in south Louisiana. (Photo submitted by Laura Mitchell)

Accompanied by School of Architecture Coordinator Laura Mitchell, the MSU student volunteers spent one weekend gutting a home in Ponchatoula, a small city located approximately 50 miles from both New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“It was nice to see that the staff at Mississippi State were supportive of what we were doing and wanted to help us,” said Horn.

No stranger to natural disasters, Horn relocated with her family to Slidell six months after Hurricane Katrina, which left her grandfather’s home in Pascagoula completely submerged.

“The ‘wet memories’ have stuck with me so much. I can remember smelling the same things,” Horn recalled when comparing her Katrina experience and the recent visit to Ponchatoula. “You often think of water as something that brings life, but it can tear things apart just as fast.”

Horn said the volunteer experience proved rather eye-opening for her fellow students as well.

“The hardest thing to grasp was that it wasn’t a tropical storm or hurricane, but just flat-out rain that caused it,” she said. “Everything seemed normal until we got in the house, and our group saw how everything was still wet.”

Along with improving the volunteers’ understanding of building construction materials and methods, the experience reinforced the importance of service. Representing MSU, Starkville and Mississippi also made the experience meaningful for the dedicated group of students.

Individuals who want to help citizens in the affected regions are encouraged to donate directly to the Red Cross, United Way or the Salvation Army.

To make a donation to the United Way of South Mississippi Disaster Relief Fund, visit www.unitedwaysm.org/content/disaster-relief-fund. Mississippi Region donations also may be made online at http://www.redcross.org/local/Mississippi.

Louisiana Region donation forms are available at www.unitedwaysela.org, www.redcross.org/local/Louisiana and www.salvationarmyalm.org.

For more information on Louisiana and Mississippi flood relief efforts, contact Meggan Franks, MSU assistant director of student leadership and community engagement, at 662-648-9032 or MFranks@saffairs.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.