I had the opportunity this past school year to meet and work alongside the most engaging group of students I have ever met and I have nothing but the highest admiration for them. They were called the D&E Responders.
These students have given 985 hours of their time, energy and compassion since September of 2011, and my heartfelt thanks does not seem like enough. It started with seven students giving up their Labor Day weekend to leave town on almost a day's notice and travel to Parsippany, N.J., to help a community which had been badly hit with hurricane Irene a few days before. After a long eight-hour drive, they spent the next day wading through sewage, water and debris to help homeowners who had lost everything. They moved furniture, tore up water-laden carpets, dragged debris to the curbsides, cleaned water out of basements, scrubbed walls and aided in the search for people who may be unable to get out of their homes due to the water. They spent that weekend with smiles on their faces and enjoyed every minute of making an immediate contribution to that community's healing process.
Following that very moving weekend, they continued to reach out a few weeks later responding to an emergency call and searching for little Aliayah Lunsford in Weston, who is still missing. They waded water, looked under houses, worked their way through heavily wooded areas, and questioned area residents desperately hoping to find this little girl.
Various organizations have been blessed by their stepping out and helping with food distributions, United Way telethon, Girl Scouts and Operation Christmas Child. They even got to go on a shopping spree, with a donation from one of their very own Responders, for Christmas gifts for a Haitian orphanage.
Their dedication continued to impress me when they gave up 45 hours of their winter break to attend CERT classes to become certified for the Community Emergency Response Team and certified in Red Cross CPR and First Aid. Most all of this training took place on Saturday mornings and continued through afternoon. Part of their training included setting up the new emergency shelter tents, etc. for the Office of Emergency Management. This group of students are trained to take the emergency trailer and set up in response to various disasters.
Their time hasn't been all work, they did appear in the Christmas parade throwing candy to the little ones which they enjoyed and followed that up with performing a game show at Third Ward Elementary called "Are you Smarter Than a Third Ward Student?" During this game show, they presented questions on disaster preparedness and 911. Two students performed a rap song and the students really got into it and started singing with them.
The cheerful giving of their time, compassion and talents was always balanced with their studies and they continue to impress me with their ideas for future giving to the community and those in need. I am honored to know a group of students who stepped out in faith under a very unique organization, the only one of its kind in West Virginia, and made it a success and a role model for other young adults. My heartfelt thanks goes to: Jessica Eddy, Milagro Silva, Dylan Jones, J.D. Mallow, Nicole Kramer, Brian Bonnett, Sara Phillips, Issa Ilboudo, Fazli Rashi, Ali Alzunaydi, Victoria Lyles, Kaitlin McDade, Kelsea Curry and Lauren Panell.
Thank you for your hearts and time.