Community service mini-term prepares to ‘ramp it up’


By Alex Dolcimascolo

This winter break, Union students in SOC-387, “The Community Service Mini-Term,” will spend two weeks in south Louisiana doing hurricane recovery work.

These students will spend one week in New Orleans and another week in Dulac, a small town deep in the wetlands made up largely of Houma Indians, a community in great need.

The students’ goal is to raise $6,000 to buy materials for two elevated ramps. The class will build the ramps during their trip. Help from the Union community is critical.

The class is fundraising for the project all this term with special events and crowdfunding through GoFundMe.  Anyone can donate at

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. Although Katrina barely scraped the wetlands south of New Orleans, when Hurricane Rita struck three weeks later, the wetlands were devastated.

Hurricane Rita was the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Rita ravaged the southern Louisiana wetlands, especially in southeast Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish, where Dulac is located.

Rita’s storm surge reached 7 feet, flooding an estimated 10,000 homes. Virtually every levee was breached. It took months for the region’s infrastructure to be repaired.

Even now, families are still recovering from the catastrophic damage. In the years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, more hurricanes, like Ike, Gustav and Isaac, have pummeled the region.

And, on top of that, communities now face the additional challenge of recovering from the 2010 BP oil spill disaster.

To prepare for future disasters, many homes need to be elevated off the ground by as much as 12-14 feet to avoid flooding.

The problem is that many families also have elderly and physically disabled members who are in need of wheelchair access to their homes. Families often do not have the extra money needed to build wheelchair access to their homes; a ramp costs about $3,000 dollars just for materials.

This year’s special community service project is “Ramping Up for Dulac.” Union students, working with the Dulac Community Center, will build two wheelchair ramps in Dulac this December, and assistance from the Union community is critical.

Professor Janet Grigsby, who has led the community service mini-term since 2007, is very excited and optimistic about the project.

“This year’s special ramp-building project represents some of the greatest things Union does. I am excited to see our students working with our neighbors here to do something great to help our neighbors far to the south. This year’s class will have a special connection with the people of Dulac. And so will every person and group on campus who contributes to help make it happen!”

Other special campus fundraising events are in the works, including a possible Gamma Phi Beta and Sigma Chi event, a bake sale and TV slide and video showing at Reamer Campus Center.

Because the Dulac Community Center is a mission of the United Methodist Church Women, churches in the Capital District are also fundraising with Union for this project.

All contributions will go directly toward purchasing lumber and building supplies needed to build ramps for two needy families. Any additional funds will go toward helping other families affected by the hurricanes.

Student volunteers from Union are donating their time to make this project happen. It is hard to believe that it has been almost ten years since Hurricane Katrina and there is still so much work to do. But, that’s the reality after a disaster like this.

With help from the community, Union students will ramp up Dulac.


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