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Emergency response part of MSU Extension mission
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- In times of need, people know help has arrived when they see the symbols of certain organizations — vests with the American Red Cross logo, National Guard uniforms, and the blue and yellow shirts of state and federal emergency responders.
Residents hit by recent tornadoes and flooding in areas of central and northern Mississippi are also recognizing maroon and white shirts as symbols of help. Mississippi State University’s school colors are on MSU Extension Service emergency response team shirts and are evident in areas of the state hit by the recent tornadoes and flooding.
The MSU Extension Service team is part of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce/Mississippi Board of Animal Health emergency response team. There are approximately 300 MSU Extension personnel certified for emergency response.
Although Extension personnel were not officially activated for statewide response to the recent storms, Extension county personnel quickly responded to calls from local officials for assistance.
“Immediately after the April 24 and May 1 storms hit Yazoo, Holmes, Choctaw and other Mississippi counties, Extension responded to requests from their county emergency management directors and other county officials to be part of the volunteer response,” said Extension associate director Joe Street. “Their knowledge of their counties and the resources available at the local level is extremely valuable in organizing efforts to secure temporary housing, child care, food and other necessities.”
Choctaw County was hit hard by the April 24 tornado, with dozens of homes destroyed or damaged and five lives lost. Since the storm, Extension food and nutrition assistant Dee Ann Williams has helped with a feeding station set up by two local churches in the most heavily damaged area of Choctaw County.
“Initially we were helping volunteers prepare three meals a day for the people who lost their homes and for the volunteers helping with debris removal and other recovery activities,” Williams said. “We were trained a couple of years ago to assist with this type of situation and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Choctaw County Extension director Juli Hughes, 4-H youth director Traci Mongeon, and office associate Jan Ballard also have helped with a variety of duties since the storm.
“We’ve organized volunteers to wash clothes at the local Laundromat for families that have lost their homes and have been putting together plastic storage totes for the families,” Hughes said. “Also, 4-H members and adult volunteers have organized a collection of personal hygiene items.”
Similar work has been done in Yazoo, Holmes and other counties hit by the April 24 and May 1 tornadoes and flooding.
“While the Extension Service’s primary mission is to serve as Mississippi State University’s educational outreach arm in the state, we are also available at the county level anytime there is a need for the ability to organize and work with volunteers in response to local needs,” Street said.