F&M Relief Alliance Rebuilds Flood-Ravaged Home
A dozen Franklin & Marshall students spent the end of winter break rebuilding a flood-ravaged home in Haskell, Okla.
“They have done more work in two days than has been done in two years,” said homeowner Donald Hendrickson, who has been displaced from his property since May 2022.
Established after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, F&M's donor-funded Catastrophic Relief Alliance (CRA) deploys students, faculty and staff to help hard-hit regions by rebuilding and repairing homes damaged or destroyed by natural disasters.
“Building a house brings people together. It made me realize I want to pursue nonprofit work after college,” said junior Melissa “Mel” Beans, CRA student president.
The weeklong trip to Haskell – a small town between Tulsa and Muskogee – is CRA’s 24th disaster relief trip.
F&M students and staff completed drywall work throughout the home, removed and installed flooring, stained all woodwork and doors, rebuilt two bathrooms and a kitchen and built new cabinetry to accommodate a wall-mounted oven.
Beans, an environmental studies and public policy joint major and economics minor from Bucks County, Pa., had never worked in disaster relief prior to college. Now, it’s one of her greatest passions.
“We really do the work. If there is anything that I really want to dedicate my time and priorities to outside of the classroom, it’s this,” said Beans, who has previously volunteered with Lancaster’s Impact Missions housing ministry.
Aside from relief work, CRA members cooked dinners together, interacted with staff and parishioners from Muskogee’s St. Paul United Methodist Church, and visited Tulsa’s Greenwood Rising museum for an in-depth lesson on the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
By the time CRA members departed, the Haskell home was nearly ready for move-in.
“There's a decent chance in the succeeding few weeks that Mr. Hendrickson and his daughter could leave the trailer they've been living in for the last two years and move back home,” said Andy Gulati, associate librarian for the sciences and CRA adviser.
When the homeowner cried tears of joy, Beans felt the depth of CRA’s hard work.
“That was one of the best experiences of college for me – meeting with the homeowner and seeing how housing can so directly impact people and their sense of space and community,” she said.
Past Projects Completed by F&M’s Catastrophic Relief Alliance:
- 'Need Is Everywhere': Students, Faculty Help Rebuild Home in F&M's Backyard
- F&M Relief Alliance Helps Wildfire Victims Rebuild
- Students, Staff Help Local Neighbors, Build Community
"Building a house brings people together."Melissa Beans '25
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