Jacob Lawson, News Writer • firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy of E&H College Facebook
According to the official Emory & Henry College Facebook page, several employees within the E&H Facilities Department travelled to the Florida Keys to work with disaster relief program Samaritan’s Purse to help with damage from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. The facilities team was not sent by E&H, but the college supported their decision to travel and help in Florida. The Whitetopper spoke with Matt French, E&H mechanic and team leader for the facilities trip to Florida.
French said the reason he planned to go was, “I felt the need to go do something to go and try to help.” He said he and the members of the Facilities Department who travelled to Florida to assist in relief “felt a calling” to help. The main issue the facilities team encountered was they didn’t “have the time off or a way to get there.” The facilities team was able to travel to Florida with the help of a new E&H policy. French said the new policy allows “full time employees to be able to have two extra days off a year for community service.” As a result, the facilities team was able to “pool two days from next year and use some vacation” to work in Florida from September 25 to September 29.
During their work in Florida, the facilities team stayed in Key West, but worked in Big Pine Key. French said the members of the facilities department that travelled to Florida included himself, Mike Taylor, an electrician, Joe Clark, a plumber, and Jason Budden, who works in grounds. On the work that the team did in Big Pine Key, French said, “We did any and everything, because everything was just destroyed.” The facilities team worked cutting trees and removing brush. He said that the flood line in the houses they worked on was “about five to five and a half feet.” In dealing with this damage, French said, “cut all the drywall out to try and prevent mold, insulation, everything completely out”. For the homeowners, he said, “You could take a small tarp and cover what they could actually keep, and that was a picture or two hanging up on the wall or something that had so much sentimental value that they couldn’t bear to toss it. It was virtually everything they owned that was ruined”.
French mentioned that in “Florida, especially in the Keys, [everything] is so at, that they all have septic tanks, so when you have water levels that high, everything just oats up,” which caused issues with sewage in the houses they worked in as well. French mentioned the destruction in Florida saying, “any street you were on, you could look 360 degrees, and it was just destroyed.”
French said if “we can go and do something [like] this, [it] should allow everyone else to realize, ‘hey, we can do it too.’” He mentioned for full-time employees, “you’re getting paid to be there, having paid time off, your cost to get there can be paid for, and, if possible, you can use a college vehicle.” He said he hopes “someone else will want to do it, not just wait until the spring because they need help now.”