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Housing for evacuees

SkillsUSA Texas helped collect furnishings for nearly a dozen families who moved from New Orleans and Mississippi after losing their homes to Hurricane Katrina.

In short supply of skilled workers, Solar Turbines Inc. was worried about losing its Gulf Coast employees to other companies after the storm, so it networked to find new homes for them near its Mabank, Texas, facility. Houses were provided by a local construction company, JP Ventures.

According to SkillsUSA Texas association director Janet Conner, the houses needed everything from refrigerators to personal items. SkillsUSA Texas and Mabank area churches collected the furnishings for the displaced families, who arrived with just a few bags of clothes and little else. end of story

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Gratitude inspires difficult journey


Francis (right) joins a volunteer from Maryland to clear debris following Hurricane Katrina.

After Hurricane Katrina, a SkillsUSA staff member rushed to the Goodbe, La., area to assist. Taking a chain saw and donated supplies, Byekwaso Francis made the trip with fellow Kansas City residents Jake McDonald and Greg Buckman.

Before leaving, Francis collected enough donations to fill 70 personal care kits with toiletries, clean towels and first aid items. Once there, he helped at a distribution center and cleared debris with his chain saw.

“When I first came to America, I called Louisiana my home,” the onetime Ugandan explains. “This is where I went to high school. Louisiana represents a lot of ‘firsts’ for me. So my heart was ripped apart when I saw it torn apart by this incredible hurricane.”

Fortunately, he was able to locate his former instructor as well as David Diamond, the man who brought him to the United States. end of story

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Skills for donations

Cosmetology students at Lamar (Colo.) Community College have organized several events to benefit the American Red Cross.

Students gave free haircuts at Lamar Municipal Airport for the Planes-to-Plains Fly-In and the Yak Pak Fly-In for Yakalov pilots. They also held an event at the school salon that included free manicures and door prizes donated by local businesses. At that event, they put out donation boxes and wore T-shirts they’d made.

For recognition, they asked donors to sign their shirts. They also sold Mardi Gras beads for donations. end of story

Responding in the wake of Katrina

On Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. What followed was some of the worst destruction from a natural disaster the United States has ever seen. As images of devastation hit the airwaves, the calls started coming into SkillsUSA headquarters: “How can we help?” Callers were directed to www.skillsusa.org/katrina.html for instructions on contributing to a special fund, set up by SkillsUSA’s Youth Development Foundation, for local members.

SkillsUSA chapters near affected areas responded immediately with food, water and, in some cases, shelter.

Here are just some of the relief efforts reported by SkillsUSA members:

  • Students and advisors from 24 states who attended the 2005 Washington Leadership Training Institute raised $1,000. An auction held during the closing social raised $691, and SkillsUSA bracelets were also sold during the conference, raising an additional $309.

  • Students from Louisiana Technical College’s Sabine Valley Campus in Many, La., hosted a cookout for evacuees. They also collected donations and supplies from area businesses, community leaders, faculty, students and families. In all, they fed 598 evacuees and clothed several displaced families.

  • Cosmetology students at Saline County Career Center in Bauxite, Ark., gave free manicures, pedicures, facials and haircuts to evacuees. “Seeing how humble the victims were and knowing how their lives had been destroyed made me realize how lucky I really was,” said Malleri Rhodes, one of the students.

  • SkillsUSA, DECA and Health Occupations Students of America members at Monroe Career and Technical Institute in Bartonsville, Pa., amassed $1,250 for relief efforts. SkillsUSA students also collected 20 boxes of clothing, personal and baby care items, and household supplies for Feed the Children.

  • Eight culinary arts students at Los Lunas (N.M.) High School Career Academy held a burrito sale and raised $200 for the American Red Cross.

    Students at the Center of Applied Technology South, in Edgewater, Md., collected food, clothing, school supplies and cash donations.

    Students and staff at Meigs County High School in Decatur, Tenn., held a drive for clothes and food items, rented a truck and drove the supplies to Biloxi, Miss. They also did a drive for 30 families evacuated to the Decatur area. Students and staff located the families in their area and listed each one’s specific needs and sizes. They collected the items and delivered them to the families.

    Students at Staunton River High School in Moneta, Va., collected money to donate to the American Red Cross for the hurricane victims.

    SkillsUSA members at Russell County Career and Technology Center in Lebanon, Va., went to all classes and collected money to send to the American Red Cross.

    Students at the Joseph M. Barry Career and Technical Education Center in Westbury, N.Y., have raised over $1,000 for the SkillsUSA Katrina Relief Fund. To raise the donation, students sold 200 SkillsUSA silicone bracelets, sold candy and held a fashion show.

    At North Montco Technical Career Center, in Lansdale, Pa., students have raised approximately $25,000 for an elementary school in Long Beach, Miss. For their adopted school, Harper McCaughan Elementary School, SkillsUSA students held fund-raisers including bake sales, candle sales and car washes. They also created and sold floral arrangements and welding creations including magazine racks, plant stands, coat racks, baker’s racks and candelabras. Staff drove donations to the school and planned to return in spring to help set up a recreational area.

    Students at New Braunfels (Texas) High School have raised more than $8,000 in cash plus clothing and canned goods for the American Red Cross hurricane relief efforts. Funds were collected from students, parents and employees of the school.

    Students at Natchitoches (La.) Vocational Technical College organized an effort to give evacuees displaced to their area shampoos and haircuts. According to student Stacey LaCour, they encountered people who weren’t able to even brush their hair for days. They also did a drive for shampoos and conditioners, brushes, “... anything we can give them to help them while they are away from home,” LaCour said.

    Students at Reading (Pa.) Muhlenburg Area Vocational-Technical School have been collecting funds during lunch periods. According to student Lynne Peterson, they ask for change and people have been putting in bills.

    Health students at Hancock County Tech Center in Ellsworth, Maine, conducted a variety of fund-raising activities including collecting funds at school using bed pans.

    Automotive technology students at Florence (Ala.) High School have been collecting donations and passing them on to the American Red Cross. They have also collected bottled water, canned goods, disposable diapers and baby formula, and have sent it to the disaster areas.

    In the school cafeteria, students at Burlington County Institute of Technology, Medford (N.J.) Campus, collected funds and made signs to gather toys and books. They also raised more than $1,000 for the purchase of items to fit into an emergency supply box. The students pictured are: Aaron Camillo (left) and chapter president Matt Wilson (right).

    Students at Camden County Technical Schools in New Jersey created a "Lend a Hand to Katrina" project. State Vice President Rafael Alvarez (left) came up with the idea to collect donations for the American Red Cross then write donors' names on paper hands displayed on a wall. Also pictured are advisor Tom Haas (center) and a donor.

    SkillsUSA New Jersey has made a $500 donation to the SkillsUSA Katrina Relief Fund. The fund will help defray costs for materials and other necessities urgently needed by SkillsUSA chapters and members displaced by the recent hurricane.

    Students at Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, N.J., held several fund-raisers and collected more than $2,500 for the American Red Cross. Their projects included a Blue Jeans fund-raiser and a parking space raffle.

    Students from Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools in New Jersey, have created a Hurricane Katrina Kit Collection, featuring new items grouped in five categories of kits, including health, school, layette, sewing and food.

  • When her former high school instructor heard she was driving to Meridian, Miss., to volunteer, Jennifer Millburn didn’t leave empty handed. Staff and students at her alma mater organized a clothing drive. A graduate of the medical office assistant program at Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Clayton, Ohio, and the registered nursing program at Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio, Millburn ended up transporting 35 boxes of clothing. And, students collected over $3,000 for the American Red Cross. end of story

Clockwise from top: Saline County Career Center pampers evacuees in Arkansas; selling burritos at Los Lunas (N.M.) High School Career Academy; students at Monroe CTI in Pennsylvania and Ohio’s Miami Valley CTC present checks to the American Red Cross.
Share your stories at: www.skillsusa.org/katrina.html

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SkillsUSA Champions | Winter 2006 | Volume 40, No. 2
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