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 SRU Counselor Returns with Wealth of Stories from New Orleans 

 

SPOTLIGHT

1/3/2006

Contact: K.E. Schwab  -- 724-738-2199;  e-mail: karl.schwab@sru.edu

 SRU COUNSELOR RETURNS WITH WEALTH OF STORIES FROM NEW ORLEANS

     SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Dr. Carol Holland, associate professor in the Slippery Rock University Counseling Center, spent 10 days of her holiday break in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans offering counseling services to flood victims and now has enough stories to fill a newspaper.

     “The stories I heard are tremendous and run the gambit from deeply personal to deeply moving,” says the veteran counselor who volunteers her time through the American Red Cross. She says her most recent experience was similar to her volunteer work following the Sept. 11, 2000, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, but notes the New Orleans devastation affected thousands more. An estimated 2.2 million people in the Gulf Coast region were affected by the August hurricane

     “In both cases, the people affected have shown resiliency. In New Orleans, there are people who have nothing left, yet they are working hard to recover and return their lives to normal,” she explains.

     Without divulging confidences or details that could link her stories to the individuals she counseled, Holland has a myriad of stories to tell. Her most recent work included help with handing out cleaning supplies to those whose homes were all but destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the results of failed levees. “In one case, I met a man who was living in a FEMA [Federal Emergence Management Agency] tent city and I asked him what he needed. I expected he would say ‘food, shelter or clothing,’ but was amazed to find he needed spiritual guidance. He and others in the tent city knew Christmas was fast approaching, but had not been part of an organized spiritual community since the floods had hit their community washing away his church and many of its members. Spiritual guidance was truly what this man wanted – and needed.”

     Fortunately, Holland explains, only the day before she had met a nearby pastor who was holding services in a small home already cleaned up after the flood. She contacted the minister who readily agreed to visit the tent city and organize services. “It was a very good feeling to help provide the service these people needed,” Holland says.

     Her 10-day excursion took her to a variety of areas in the city, including low-income areas as well as more affluent areas – equally devastated by the flood waters. “Our group was handing out cleaning supplies -- brooms, bleach, shovels and buckets – which were readily accepted by all. In one case, an elderly woman arrived in a older-model car, to proudly announced she was not among the looters who had struck following the calamity and was proud to accept the much-needed supplies,” says Holland. She says cleaning supply delivery provided opportunities to meet people and offer counseling as well as information on resources available to victims.

     Her stories also include the pleasure of seeing so many young people – teenagers and young adults – stepping up in relief efforts. “There are students from across the country, and there are young people from the area organizing workers and getting projects under way to help restore order and normalcy to daily life.” SRU’s Institute for Community, Service-Learning and Nonprofit Leadership dispatched a 16-member contingent to New Orleans earlier this week. The group is working with the Episcopal Diocese of New Orleans on community-service projects.

     Holland, a member of the SRU faculty since 1993, says although there is much bad news, including on-going problems related to bureaucracy, insurance coverage, loss of jobs and family and neighborhood relationships, she also saw the community react to good news. “There are still lots of areas outside the main city where traffic lights are not yet operational, but while I was there, they announced five trolley cars were being placed into service and you could see the local spirit boost,” she explains.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Holland is available for interviews at 724-738-2132.

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