By Mallory Sherwood, Managing Editor
Courtney Patterson spent Sunday playing on the playground and coloring with children. She had never met these children before, but they didn’t seem to care that she was 15 years older than many of them.
Patterson, freshman business management major from Orlando, was one of more than 275 students trained by the Red Cross on Friday evening to work with the evacuees who moved from the Gulf Coast and Port Charles area to G.V. Daniels Recreation Center.
She said she wanted to help because she is from Florida and knows what it is like to go through a hurricane.
“Last summer we had four hurricanes hit us, so I’ve seen what people go through, and I know what it feels like to lose property and your material things,” Patterson said.
Patterson entertained some of the children who arrived this weekend during her volunteer shift. Others work the registration table, clean, take care of infants and serve food.
She said the people are friendly and thankful for a place to come, and they will wait it out until they can go home.
G.V. Daniels Recreation Center has about 130 cots inside its gym, covering the floor and leaving just enough room for walking space. It offers its guests a cafeteria with a buffet line always stocked with food, a game room with billiard tables and televisions and a playground outside for children.
With so many people that arrived in Abilene, the Red Cross needed much help.
Jon Strong, senior business management major from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was one of more than 100 people who stayed after Chapel last Friday because they wanted to help. He said he was affected by Chapel and felt he needed to get involved somehow.
Strong and some friends attended the meeting Friday in Hart Auditorium and had a hard time finding a seat. He said although the auditorium was packed and people had to stand in the back, students were attentive and listened to representatives from the Fire Department and Red Cross speak on fire safety, dealing with traumatized people and how to react.
Strong said it is important for students to get involved and serve others around them.
“It’s important because they’re people too,” Strong said. “This could happen to any one of us, and I know we all know someone affected by Katrina or Rita. It gets personal when we can reach out to those in need.”
This attitude is what makes Dr. Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life proud.
“Students were extremely positive about wanting to serve,” Barnard said. “The response has been incredible, and I’ve heard many, many positive comments about our students’ abilities to work with people and to care for their needs. They have been willing to do anything, even without being asked.”
He also said he was proud to see the students giving themselves over and over again.
“It’s been awesome,” Barnard said. “Students have played with kids, changed diapers, registered evacuees, made beds, set up cots, cleaned floors, served food, and so much more.
“Without fail, every time I’m at the shelter the adult volunteers talk about how amazing our students are.”