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Flood volunteers 'just do it'

Sept. 27, 2004

By Marisa Long

"It's just what you do" was the response given by Janeece Henes, graduate assistant in the Center for Community Service, when asked why she and other Ohio University volunteers traveled to Amesville this past weekend to spend their time helping flood victims in the area.

Photos by Laura Shaw"They needed us and asked us for help because they suffered devastating damage," Henes says. "I just think - this is our community - this is what I have to do today. Other than that, you don't even think about it."

Henes and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) volunteer Sara Truesdell, B.A. '04, began recruiting help on Saturday morning after they received the request for volunteers. Kathy Murphy, resident director of Bromley Hall, recruited four of the resident assistants in her building to join the effort after being contacted by Henes. Senior Laura Shaw, president of Ohio University's chapter of Habitat for Humanity, made the trip as well. By 1 p.m. that day, eight volunteers from Ohio University were in Amesville lending assistance to residents and business owners.

The volunteers were shocked to see the extensive flood damage in the area.

"This was the first time I helped flood victims," says senior Nneka Ogunnaya, who is a resident assistant in Bromley Hall. "I don't think I would have realized how bad the damage was if I hadn't volunteered. Everything was soaking wet, covered in mud and smelled really bad. It's hard to see from the outside just how severe the damage is to personal belongings inside the buildings."

Amesville property owner Mary Morgan has suffered from flooding in her store in the past. It has been a difficult ordeal, but she was thankful for the Ohio University volunteer assistance.

"Anything I asked them to do they did, and it was invaluable help," she says. "It is an enormous job and miserable work, especially with all the things in my building, but they got right to work. I really appreciated it."

Morgan's property is a 100-year-old building that she renovated and turned into a craft store following her retirement as an Ohio University employee in 1988. She considered the store, which included a collection of various artworks and crafts and art projects by local artists, her "post-retirement love affair."

Photos by Laura ShawWhile forced to close the store in 1998 because of a flood that immersed the building in nine feet of water, Morgan has continued using the space as storage for her collection of artworks and personal belongings. She was planning on relocating the items in case of another flood, but did not have the chance. Many items were damaged in last week's flood and she is trying to save as much as she can, but is overwhelmed by the process.

"Most people don't realize that there are memories - personal belongings - that you can't put a price on that are the most valuable and often the most damaged during floods," Ogunnaya says. "We try to lift people's spirits during devastating times and we just wanted to take time out to show we care."

Morgan was just one of the many individuals who received assistance from the Ohio University volunteers. Henes says the entire experience in Amesville was important.

"You could see that we helped these individuals," she says. "And we were impressed with how the community got together to help each other. It was just unbelievable."

Marisa Long is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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