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Dec. 7, 2010

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab




SRU volunteers tackle rebuilding work in New Orleans


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Sixteen Slippery Rock University students are gearing up to spend part of their winter break helping people in New Orleans continue their recovery efforts from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

            The 16, and two advisers, will spend Jan. 1-8 in Louisiana.

            Darlene Purvis, a public relations major from New Castle, was a crew member for a similar trip last year to New Orleans and became one of two student leaders for this year’s work detail.

“As soon as I saw they were going again, I volunteered. I went last year, and really, really liked it. I like volunteering, so it was perfect. I have a really big passion for helping people, and the people in New Orleans really need our help,” she said.

            She expects the work to be about the same this year.

“They told us to bring basic building skills, like using a saw or drills, so I think we will be rebuilding and installing again,” she said.

            “Last year, our group of 15 students was divided into two sections. The group I was in did finishing work like painting and grouting ceramic bathroom tile. We installed cabinets and carpeting in a house that had been flooded. We did not meet the homeowners then, but we got an e-mail from them a few months ago saying they had finally returned to the house and were grateful for the work we did. They really liked it,” Purvis said.

            The family whose home the SRU students worked spent six years in New Jersey while their New Orleans home was rebuilt.

            Purvis said the SRU group does not yet have its actual work itinerary for the trip, but is prepared for whatever jobs they are assigned.

            The students are participating in what is known as Project Homecoming, a rebuilding effort of The Presbytery of South Louisiana in partnership with the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. They will stay in a village in New Orleans set up for volunteers during their trip.

Margaret Depree, a psychology major from Jamestown, is the group’s co-leader.

Others SRU volunteers joining the trip, with their major and hometown are:

Kayla Mennini, a social work from Erie;

Jillian MacRitchie, elementary education/early childhood from Chagrin Falls, Ohio;

Fred Stover, parks and recreation, Centre Hall;

Jenah Jackson, criminal justice from Brookeville;

Megan Neil, music therapy from Harrisburg;

Torie Washington, undeclared from Greensburg;

David Matuszak, parks and resource management from Seven Fields;

Abby Biddlestone, athletic training, Niles, Ohio;

Ryan Wirth, special education/early childhood education from Gibsonia;

Justin Yauovski, social work from  Greensburg;

Michael Kuir, safety management from Greensburg;

Emily Eppinger, communication from Cranberry Township;

Dylan Moore, environmental science from Warren;

Andrew Dadig, social work from Hopewell;

Krystle Kane, professional studies from Moon Township; and

Bryan Elliott, communication from Wooster, Ohio.

            Hurricane Katrina, which formed Aug. 23, 2005 over the Bahamas, is billed as one of the most costly hurricanes ever to strike the U.S. Nearly 2,000 people were killed and an estimated 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded. The storm carried winds in the 175 mph range. Damage was estimated at $81 billion.

            The volunteer project is being coordinated by SRU’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.