TROY students with Baton Rouge resident Marlyn Elbert, center.
According to Louisiana Gov. John Edwards, at least 40,000 homes were damaged in the state’s recent flooding, and a group of Troy University students wanted to help make a difference.
Graham Pierce, a senior risk management and insurance major from Niceville, Florida, connected with TROY alumna Raven Pasibe, a current graduate student at the University of Alabama from Dothan, Alabama, to see how they could get involved. Pasibe linked Pierce and five other TROY students with a group leaving from Alabama to join forces with the Living Hope Fellowship church in Baton Rouge.
The church arranged for the group to work at the home of Marlyn Elbert, who is caretaker for her elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
“It was really cool to see her spirit,” Pierce said. “She was still strong and trusting in God. It was awesome to see that played out in a real life situation because I don’t know if I’d respond that well if everything I own got destroyed.”
The flooding damaged everything under four feet in Elbert’s home. For the whole day on Saturday, Aug. 27, the group removed flooring, Sheetrock and furniture and transported it onto the street for removal.
“You literally drive in the neighborhood in Baton Rouge and people’s whole belongings are just out along the road,” Pierce said. “We spent the majority of the time ripping out all the Sheetrock,” he said.
The five other TROY students who participated in the project were Carly Moore, a sophomore undeclared major from Cleveland, Tennessee, Caitlin Saliba, a senior nursing major from Dothan, Justin Lewis, a junior political science major from Gainesville, Virginia, Claudia Estrella, a senior in the American Sign Language interpreter training program from Enterprise, Alabama, and Chloe Lyle, a sophomore multimedia journalism major from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Pierce described it as an awesome experience to be able to help someone in that way after a tragedy, and that it made the flood’s impact more personal for him.
“You can see something on the news and it feels very distant,” he said. “It’s not personal until you get to experience it.”
He knew that working for only a day would not have much impact but having that experience would help him be able to spread the word upon returning home.
His main focus is getting more volunteers to travel to the affected areas and getting people to donate. Pierce is a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at TROY and wants to use the Greek system to help raise both funds and awareness.
ATO and Pierce are collecting donations to support Elbert and others affected by the Louisiana flooding on a GoFundMe page.