Students 'stuff the truck' for Katrina relief effort

Bedding, baby clothes, books and bottled water.

The Durham and Duke communities came together Tuesday to load these and many other supplies into an 18-wheel truck for delivery to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The event, called "Stuff the Truck," was sponsored by the Graduate and Professional Student Council, Duke Bar Association and the School of Law. DBA Community Service Chair Jennifer Csik, Trinity '03, second-year law student Ryan McLeod and first-year law student Destiny Duron Deas-a Louisiana native-coordinated the event.

Event organizers solicited some 15 types of items needed by hurricane survivors through an advertisement in The Chronicle and a website. These items will be delivered to victims displaced to the northwestern Louisiana city of Shreveport, located near the Texas border.

McLeod contacted American Bar Association representatives from Tulane University and other affected colleges and universities to identify need. Ultimately, it was decided that a supply drive would be most effective.

Tuesday morning, volunteers-faculty, staff, graduate and professional school students, as well as undergraduates-arrived in droves, despite foreboding skies and sporadic rain.

"This has been tremendous," McLeod said, noting that individuals started arriving at 7:30 a.m. for an event advertised as starting at 10 a.m.

A line of donors' cars stretched around the quad for most of the day, and sweaty volunteers were kept busy boxing, sorting and labeling donations.

As 4 p.m. approached and donors continued to stream in, McLeod said it seemed likely the truck would reach full capacity. He added that any overflow would be delivered to the Duke Chapel, where officials have already collected supplies for transfer to a distribution center in Greensboro, N.C.

Rain forced the volunteers to move their sorting process to the covered arcade between the Flowers Building and the West Union Building. The volunteers adjusted to the switch smoothly, scurrying energetically between donors' cars, the arcade and the truck.

"I decided to participate because the help is really needed right now," said Chris Kocher, volunteer and third-year law student. "It's been pretty uplifting. The efforts that students are putting into it have been reciprocated by the community."

Once the truck was loaded, the driver set off to deliver the supplies to the Greater Shreveport Disaster Relief Fund, an organization with which Duron Deas' father is involved. An empty department store in Shreveport will serve as a depot where evacuees can get basic supplies for free.

McLeod credited Duron Deas and Csik, who he called "a powerhouse of community service," with the event's success. He added that the event was made possible largely by the support of many other non-University sponsors.

DeHaven's Transfer & Storage and Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers donated thousands of dollars worth of supplies and labor.

Monroe Warehouse Trucking, Inc. donated a truck and a driver to the cause, and the Millennium Hotel Durham provided complimentary lodging for the driver. Papa John's Pizza and Alpine Bagels and Brews provided food to the volunteers.

Members of the International Development Office, the Duke University Police Department and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Law were also involved in the effort.

The charitable event was slightly marred by an attempted robbery of monetary donations. All funds were recovered. The unknown suspect escaped without charges.


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