The Independent Florida Alligator Online
By JESSICA RIFFEL
Gators for Hurricane Relief is seeking volunteers for a trip with Anti-Gravity Campus Ministry at First Lutheran Church in Gainesville to aid relief efforts in the city battered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
UF student Justin Farge, who helped start the relief club, wanted to quit school this semester to help hurricane victims in his hometown.
"That wasn't feasible, so I've been dying to get up there and do hurricane relief," Farge said.
Farge, a third-year English major, remembered the disbelief and depression he felt after seeing the devastation on television.
"It was very hard for me to be in Gainesville while I was watching the place where I grew up completely torn apart," Farge said.
He was able to volunteer in Gainesville, sorting clothes and food and starting a food fundraiser called the Jambalaya Krewe with his friend, UF student Allan LeBlanc. They were able to raise money for Catholic Relief Charities by selling jambalaya for $3 a plate at St. Augustine Church on game days, beginning with the Louisiana Tech game.
"I decided if I couldn't take a semester off, then I'd do as much around Gainesville as I could," Farge said.
But Farge will finally get the chance to directly help victims when he and nine students work in New Orleans from Dec. 27 through Jan. 4.
The group will join PRC Compassion, a relief group in association with the Pastors Resource Council. The organization will provide free housing and assign tasks to the students.
Farge said they will most likely aid with cleanup and repairs, but the situation and needs change daily.
"You just have to be ready to work," he said.
In a separate trip, about seven UF students from First Lutheran Church's campus ministry plan to drive to New Orleans as soon as exams are completed.
Jay Winters, a pastor-in-training at the church, is leading the group to New Orleans to work at St. Paul Church and its school from Dec. 16 through Dec. 21.
"We're going to be delivering presents for an entire Lutheran grade school," Winters said. "And we'll be helping the parishioners rebuild."
He said they will also spend time with the children in preschool through eighth grade classrooms.
"We wanted to do a school project because children tend to get overlooked," Winters said.
He said response to the trip was enthusiastic.
"As soon as the idea was pitched, everybody who could was willing to spend a part of their Christmas break serving others, and in turn make Christmas more special for themselves," Winters said.
Farge said that additional volunteers are needed.
"There's lots of people who are still suffering, and things aren't going to be close to normal for a long time," Farge said. "Any way we can help is desperately needed."
Anyone interested in joining Farge's group can contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.