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North Carolina 4-H'ers offer helping hands
By Hannah Watts
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Three tractor-trailer loads of supplies are North Carolina 4-H members' way of joining the Mississippi 4-H efforts to help the state's youngest residents struggling to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Katrina.
Inspired by a news clip showing a 4-H Beanie Baby pulled from the rubble in south Mississippi, 4-H members across North Carolina collected educational, recreational and personal hygiene supplies for Mississippi and Louisiana children living in temporary housing. Similar kits were developed in the first weeks after the storm by Mississippi clubs taking part in Operation 4-H Relief.
"The North Carolina effort, known as Helping Hands and Healing Hearts, is the largest relief effort that North Carolina 4-H has been involved in since World War II," said Samantha Stevens, president of the North Carolina 4-H Council. "With the distribution of the kits, the 4-H'ers of North Carolina hope to bring encouragement to the young people across the coast while they undertake the rebuilding efforts."
Susan Holder, state 4-H leader with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the 6,888 kits will be of tremendous value to those in the recovery area.
"With the help of the 4-H'ers from North Carolina, we are now in the second stage of the rebuilding efforts for extended parts of the 4-H family," Holder said. "North Carolina's teamwork offers a sense of accomplishment because of what their 4-H'ers did to help people they had never met. This truly shows how big the 4-H family really is."
The trucks came to Starkville on Oct. 9 en route to their final destination along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. About 50 volunteers from the MSU Collegiate 4-H Club, North Carolina 4-H and Mississippi 4-H helped prepare the trucks for the final leg of their journey.
Each kit contains a letter of encouragement from the 4-H youth in North Carolina. In addition to the tangible gifts and letters, the North Carolina 4-H organization collected almost $16,000 to aid in 4-H and Extension families who lost their homes in the storm.
"This story shows that 4-H'ers in North Carolina really do care about the young people across the country. As a result from of putting knowledge to work, we are helping to rebuild the places hit by Katrina," said Sharon Rowland, the executive director of the development for Cooperative Extension and 4-H for North Carolina.
Samantha Cawthorn, president of MSU Collegiate 4-H said, said the gifts reveal the heart of the organization that is in the 4-H emblem.
"This generosity brings together families in this difficult situation," Cawthorn said. "It is great to see such overwhelming support from the 4-H'ers in North Carolina, it makes me proud to be apart of this nationally recognized organization."
"Although 4-H has organized activities and sent Mississippi numerous donations to shelters it is great to see that North Carolina added such a personal touch with the specialized kits from other kids just like the kids that have been displaced on the coast, it really brings out the heart and generosity that is in the 4-H emblem," Cawthorn said.