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Spring Break 2011 Becomes Community Service

Six years later, people still putting lives back together

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It is a longstanding tradition for college students on spring break to head for the Sunbelt to relax on a beach in Florida or South Padre Island or enjoy the music and food in a place like New Orleans.

However, 45 ESF students and two alumni spent only one day touring New Orleans over spring break 2011 and devoted the rest of the week to helping victims of Hurricane Katrina build and repair homes in Chalmette, La. They also planted trees to help restore levees and helped clean up a couple of neighborhoods.

A total of 77 people made the trip starting Saturday, March 12. In addition to ESF, the contingent included representatives of Syracuse University, SUNY Oswego and OCM BOCES. The trip was organized through Operation Southern Comfort, a volunteer group that has been helping the Katrina victims for several years. This was Operation Southern Comfort's 33rd trip to the New Orleans area.

Last year, 26 ESF students made the trip. They worked at 10 sites putting up siding, walls and doors; painting; cleaning; and installing floors. Working with a retired forestry professor from Louisiana State University, Dr. Rich Goyer, the students potted 1,400 trees, planted 15 trees and started new trees with acorns. The trees are grown in the pots for about a year so the root system is well developed and then they are transplanted to the levees where they will help mitigate damage from future storms.

Overall, the students worked a total of 1,520 hours.