One Yard at a Time: Responding to Hurricane Irene


Rev. Hollie Woodruff serves as Chaplain to the College at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, and advises Barton's "Campus Compassion" Student Organization. She offers this reflection on helping with local cleanup efforts.
Before the winds and the rains from Hurricane Irene pounded North Carolina's coast, the "Campus Compassion" student organization at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, already had plans in place to help neighbors clean up after the storm.
Created through Barton College's relationship with Week of Compassion, Campus Compassion seeks to empower young adults to alleviate the suffering of others by paying attention and responding to a world in need. Its purpose is to motivate students to educate themselves about the community and world in which we live and bring about positive change. This happens through topic studies, volunteer work in the community and responding with courageous compassion to the community at large when a crisis occurs.
The day after the storm, I met Campus Compassion students on Barton's center campus with rakes, gloves, and water in hand as we ventured out to see how we could reach out to our neighbors and bring order back into their lives following the chaos created by Hurricane Irene.  
For hours we worked our way around the perimeter of campus, moving large branches to the street and raking leaves. Our work didn't seem extraordinary to us, but for those who did not have the means to do it themselves because of illness, age, or immobility, the impact of our students' help was immeasurable. It was strenuous, repetitive work on a hot, humid day, but I never heard one person complain; this is the kind of work our students of Campus Compassion look forward to.
When I asked our students why they chose to spend the afternoon helping, new student Crystal Weideman, shared, "I know what it's like not having a support system, and, when your home and community are affected, it's not only a lot of work and costly, but it really jolts your sense of security. That is why I am helping."  
And help they did. With every neighbor we met, we were given names of others needing help, and students volunteered their time not only on Sunday but also for the days that followed.  
During our service in the neighborhood, we saw glimpses of God's Beloved Community as we became acquainted with neighbors and each other. We met Ms. Boomer, a feisty, older woman who, although unable to work in her own yard, gave back to us by refilling our water bottles. Her gratitude was visible in her radiant smile and her excitement to just have "some young people around" as she put it. We also met Ms. Deborah, a middle aged woman who was already out cleaning her yard. She was grateful for the help and told us we "just saved her a lot of time."   
There are many ways to respond to natural and human disasters, but for young people who don't always have the means to contribute financially, this was a tangible way to for them to respond. "It's fun" said freshman Lisa Williams. "It's not always physically comfortable, but I have enjoyed this. I have laughed and made new friends!"    
Today's world requires us to be a people of response - people who come together to offer assistance in a multitude of forms to those affected by tragedies of natural and human catastrophes. Campus Compassion is inspired by the legacy of Week of Compassion, a legacy defined by its ability to immediately respond to those affected by disasters is possible because of the generosity of others. Through Campus Compassion, we hope our work and service will emulate that of Week of Compassion while encouraging and inspiring that same sense of generosity.
Through Barton's Campus Compassion program, we are living out not only the mission of Barton College, but also of Week of Compassion and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).