Chancellor's Message: Carolina should be proud of flood relief work

"Praise the Lord! Salvation!"

Those were the heartfelt words uttered by a Salvation Army volunteer to Nick Didow, director of the new Carolina Center for Public Service, when he and more than 30 faculty, students and staff rolled into flood-ravaged Greenville on Oct. 16 to lend a hand as part of Alternative Fall Break.

I'm not overstating when I say the Carolina family has been the bearer of a lot of "salvation" to our neighbors down east who were devastated by Hurricane Floyd. Public service has always been at the heart of Carolina, and at no time in recent memory has there been a greater, more immediate need for our assistance.

The more than 100 Tar Heels who helped flood victims in Greenville and Windsor during fall break is just one example. In an effort organized by the Center for Public Service, they "ripped and stripped" several Windsor homes of damaged drywall and other materials, helped distribute food to 316 Greenville families and handed out some 26,000 gallons of water. They also did other unglamorous yet important jobs.

The center, which I have asked to coordinate campus relief efforts, isn't stopping there. It will continue organizing weekend trips to these towns as long as the need and manpower are there, and it will coordinate our efforts with Chapel Hill to help the tiny Edgecombe County community of Speed get back on its feet. The center also is making plans for an Alternative Thanksgiving Break and for a grant program to help campus groups partner with others to develop long-term assistance projects.

I have been amazed by the services, generosity and compassion emanating from Carolina. Psychiatrists are sharing expertise with local care providers to help residents cope with the trauma of the storm and its aftermath. Experts on local government are advising town staffs on how to operate in the wake of a disaster. Marine scientists are assessing the damage to the Pamlico Sound. Public health faculty, students and staff are disseminating vital information to flood victims, as well as to state and local authorities. And volunteers from the School of Pharmacy and other Health Affairs units are manning the North Carolina Emergency Pharmaceutical and Medical Supply Hotline, which gives companies and others a way to donate much-needed supplies.

At the same time, staff, faculty and students have collected money, food, clothing and other necessities for flood victims. Students performance groups held a benefit concert. The Department of Athletics asked for donations of money and canned goods at a football game. And employees of UNC Health Care collected household and cleaning items, other supplies and toys for residents of Rocky Mount, as well as raised $5,000, much of which will be matched by corporations.

We're putting our resources right here on campus to work, too. LEARN North Carolina in the School of Education, for example, opened a Hurricane Floyd School Relief Bulletin Board on its web site, giving schools a place to post their needs in hopes that donors will respond.

This is just a sampling of campus outreach efforts. We have much to be proud of, yet much remains to be done. Even as the poignant stories fade from the front pages of newspapers, Floyd's victims will continue to need assistance for months, even years, to come. I am confident Carolina will be there for them. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.

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