Livingston CARES rebuilds lives, one nail at a time

The residents of Harrison County, Miss. are not ready to be forgotten and thrown by the wayside - not just yet.

Although Hurricane Katrina struck the shores of the Gulf Coast over four years ago, people are still residing in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers, unable to return to their houses. In response to the home-shattering destruction of Katrina, Livingston CARES was created by a collaborative effort of Geneseo students and Livingston County community members.

According to Katie Rogers, AmeriCorps VISTA representative to Geneseo, Livingston CARES is a non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to assisting communities and individuals locally, regionally, nationwide and globally in humanitarian projects, including disaster relief and recovery efforts.

"Livingston CARES organizes four trips a year to Harrison County, Miss., including our very popular Alternative Spring Break trip in which 55 students give back during their spring break vacation," Rogers said. The volunteers "work on rebuilding homes for residents affected by the hurricane," she added.

Junior Daniel Hart, student co-coordinator for CARES, said he has attended many trips with the belief that he is helping to give back that missing piece in a resident's life.

"I believe that if there is something I can do to help out people in need then I must do it," Hart said. "It's good to know that I am doing good for someone."

Embarking on these trips is not a one-time deal for most attendants; the addictive nature of volunteering keeps students coming back for more.

For senior Samantha Feldmeyer, it is the mere fact that she has the opportunity to help a family. "I've gone on two trips; we didn't get to meet the family the first time but when we drove past the house the second year, it brought a tear to my eye to see people living in the homes with a TV on and living out their normal lives," Feldmeyer said. "It's not necessarily the physical thanks that you get from people, but just knowing that you've helped someone get back on their feet [that makes it worthwhile]."

"This trip has changed my perspective on many things and has taught me to be appreciative and grateful for everything that I've ever had," said senior Marissa Evarts, student co-coordinator for CARES. "I've met some really amazing people in Biloxi, and it's because of these people that I still keep coming back to help."

Interested in helping CARES? On Nov. 12, Livingston CARES is hosting a gumbo to-go dinner featuring gumbo, Louisiana cornbread and pralines. Tickets are being sold at Bank Street Corner Grill, Key Bank and in the Center for Community Office in the College Union, Room 353. Pick up is from 4 to 7 p.m. at St. Mary's Parish on North Street.

Visit for additional information on trip dates and the organization itself.