All Saints’ students lend hand on Coast|[12/10/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 12, 2005

A group of students from All Saints’ Episcopal School is reeling from the shock of a trip last week to the still-devastated Mississippi Coast.

Meant to help with the recovery effort ongoing since the storm hit Aug. 29, the trip came more than three months after Hurricane Katrina reigned her fury on the area.

&#8220Nothing could prepare you to see that,” said senior Danielle Jenkins from Little Rock.

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Even though relief efforts were well under way when the 17 students and two staff members arrived Dec. 2, senior Michelle Stallworth of Meridian said it seemed the storm had hit only a week before. It made her want to stay longer than one weekend.

&#8220We didn’t do as much as was needed,” she said. &#8220There’s so much to be done. Those people need so much help. If we had been there the whole week even, there would still be so much to be done.”

Their life-altering mission was shared with fellow classmates and All Saints’ faculty and staff Thursday at the school’s weekly chapel service.

A slide show presentation showed rooftops on the ground as if homes simply slipped from their bearing, tents covering the landscape much like at a campground, bulldozers resting among piles of debris and people scurrying to either help or be helped.

&#8220I was prepared for some of it, but not to that extreme,” Danielle said.

As soon as the students pulled into the hard hit areas, they knew work needed to be done.

&#8220When we got there, these kids hit the ground running,” said administrator Kim Stribling, who headed up the trip.

&#8220You don’t want to protect the students from life, you want to prepare them for it,” she said. &#8220You want to help them grow deeper in life and help them learn more about themselves.”

The students went to the site of Coast Episcopal School in Long Beach, where the relief effort Camp Coast Care was under way. Stribling, physical education teacher Pam Piazza and the 17 ninth- through 12th-graders helped organize supplies, serve food, divvy out clothes and toys to victims and lend a hand wherever needed.

The surprising thing for the group, though, was how much they received.

The first day, a man who had lost his home gave Stribling several boxes of designer sunglasses that had been donated to the disaster relief.

&#8220The first thing we were given was a gift,” she said.

The next night, a stranger paid for their meals to thank them for their help.

&#8220He said, ‘Thank you for coming and serving us,’” Stribling said. &#8220He gave all he had to feed us.”

William Ashley, a ninth-grader from Yazoo City, said the trip made him realize how lucky he is.

&#8220I was amazed by what I was able to do to help. I got to see what was being shown on TV. It was unbelievable to actually see that – what you have, you should cherish,” he said.

Though she hopes to take another group of students back to the Coast after Christmas, Stribling said the experience was one that altered lives of the victims and the students’.

&#8220It’s neat to see the students serve and take a moment to step out of the community. It touched my heart. The way people give can really teach you how to live,” she said. &#8220It’s changed lives – we’ll go back,” she said.

Senior Eleanor Elmore of Jackson said she hopes she will be able to return soon to continue to help.

&#8220Coming back, I felt fulfilled, but I want to go back and help more – I wanted to stay longer,” she said.