We in the University of Georgia community could never have been prouder than in recent weeks as hundreds, even thousands, joined together to assist our neighbors in need from the hurricane disasters. University students, faculty and staff were joined by volunteers, representatives of public agencies and local businesses to meet a wide variety of needs.
In addition to many independent efforts by students, faculty, and staff, two UGA/American Red Cross shelters were made ready for hurricane evacuees. Although the Ramsey Center shelter was not activated, the university’s Rock Eagle 4-H Center at Eatonton provided shelter to more than 600 evacuees from central New Orleans, operating from Sept. 4 through Sept. 22.
Many of our guests were literally plucked from their rooftops by helicopter after spending days in chest- and neck-deep water. They were grateful to be dry and secure in Georgia and have now moved on to the next stage of their lives.
To try to extend individual thanks to the many involved brings the risk of omitting someone, and if that occurs, please accept my sincere apology. But I think it is important to extend the thanks of the university community to those who stepped up above and beyond the call of duty to render assistance on behalf of the institution to those in need. Many of those who helped at Rock Eagle also were of tremendous assistance in our on-campus efforts, and vice versa.
Opal Haley, director of the Office of Security Preparedness, and her staff provided extraordinary leadership through this crisis, coordinating shelter planning at both the Ramsey Center and Rock Eagle. Opal served as the liaison between the American Red Cross, facilities coordinators at both locations and UGA senior administration.
Arch Smith, associate state 4-H leader at Rock Eagle, and his staff, particularly Terri Camp and Andy Smith, were “in the trenches” daily. The entire Rock Eagle staff represented the University of Georgia in an exemplary way. State 4-H Leader Bo Ryles provided invaluable assistance. Other leadership was drawn from across the university to assist with the Rock Eagle shelter. Cheryl Dozier, assistant vice president for academic affairs at the Gwinnett Center, spent countless hours at the Rock Eagle shelter coordinating mental health and social services; Pat Allen, director of community relations at UGA, and Vanessa Williams Smith, associate dean of students, assisted in the coordination of volunteers.
The UGA team leaders of the Crisis Response Team included Amos Zeichner from the psychology department; Jerry Gale, child and family development in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences; and Nancy Williams, School of Social Work. Many of the CRT volunteers included students from these three departments and alumni. More than 300 mental health assessments were completed and more than 400 individuals and families were served by this team of more than 100 social workers, psychologists, therapists and students.
Nancy McDuff and her staff in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions processed more than 300 inquiries, resulting in some 135 offers of admission and some 65 enrollees. This was done in a short period of time under the duress of missing records and spotty communications into the storm zone. The graduate admissions office and their colleagues in the schools and colleges also worked with a number of graduate student transients and transfers to UGA.
Our thanks also to Rodney Bennett and the student affairs staff; Susan Little and the financial aid staff; the bursar’s office; the registrar’s office; and certainly to the Parents and Families Association for providing monetary assistance to help our new students meet financial needs.
Last but not least in this regard, particular thanks go to our faculty and staff who welcomed these students by working one-on-one to get them situated and help them catch up, and to the student mentors who helped them adjust.
Although the Ramsey Center was not activated as an emergency shelter, nonetheless it was made ready to go in fine fashion per the Red Cross’ disaster plan.
Among those deserving our thanks for these efforts-many of whom also contributed to efforts at Rock Eagle-are Ralph Johnson and the physical plant staff; Jim Day and the University Housing staff; Mike Floyd and the food services staff; Barbara White and the EITS staff; Jane Russell, Matt Hackett and the staff at the Ramsey Center; George Stafford of auxiliary and administrative services; Ron Hamlin and the campus transit staff, George Francisco and the College of Pharmacy staff and students; and Jimmy Williamson and the UGA police department. Maria Kuhn of the Environmental Safety Division coordinated pet sheltering efforts, with assistance from Steve Harvey and Cheri Roberts of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The cooperation of the Athens-Clarke County mayor and the police and fire departments is greatly appreciated.
A number of significant fundraising efforts took place. The UGA Athletic Association coordinated and UGA football fans donated more than $54,000 at the Georgia-South Carolina game on Sept. 10.
Other significant funds drives were coordinated through the UGA Student Government Association and Volunteer UGA. And more than $40,000 in unsolicited contributions were made to the 4-H Foundation earmarked for the Rock Eagle evacuees.
Through it all, there were many senior administrators, especially Senior Vice Presidents Arnett Mace and Hank Huckaby, along with officials at the board of regents and the leadership of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, whose support and cooperation in cutting red tape was vital.
There are numerous others outside the university who worked in concert to make these efforts successful. Again at the risk of leaving someone out, but with the best of intentions in recognizing those who contributed, our thanks go to the following: Wesley Willis and the Putnam County Emergency Management Agency; Ginny Hogan, Harold Smith and other American Red Cross volunteers from the Central Georgia chapter; Ryan Logan, Jennifer Bridges and other Red Cross volunteers from the East Georgia chapter; Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills and staff; Charlotte Green and the Putnam County Health Department; Darlene Roberts and the Putnam County Department of Family and Children Services; the Georgia Department of Labor; the Veteran’s Administration; the Council on Aging; Legal Aid; the Morgan County EMA; the Hancock County Fire Department; CVS pharmacy, which filled more than 800 free prescriptions; Mike Faulk and Shopper’s Pharmacy of Eatonton, who filled emergency prescriptions in the early morning hours of opening day at Rock Eagle; the Pilot Club of Eatonton; Eatonton Nursing Home; Putnam General Hospital; the Eatonton Police Department; Eatonton/Putnam County Rescue; the Putnam County Fire Department; the Morgan County Fire Department; Jasper County EMA; Baldwin County EMA; Putnam County EMS, Putnam County Transit; Putnam County Board of Education; Putnam County Christian Outreach; Putnam County Recreation Department; Putnam County Board of Commissioners; the city of Eatonton; Georgia State Patrol; Georgia Department of Agriculture; Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles; Newton County EMA; Reynolds Plantation; Georgia College and State University, which provided computers and student assistants; Rick King, who coordinated the Crisis Response Team and its volunteers; Madeline van Dyck, who set up a community housing clearance process to match evacuees with offers of housing; and hundreds of faith-based groups, local churches, and local volunteers whose financial, physical, and emotional support was important for the evacuees and caregivers.
This list is extensive, but admittedly may yet be incomplete. However, it emphasizes the magnitude of this effort-truly a community coming together to meet the needs of their fellow citizens.
To all mentioned here and all others who assisted, the University of Georgia expresses sincere, deepest gratitude.