James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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Employees and Students Go to New Orleans to Assist with Hurricane Katrina Clean-up Efforts

Photo:Evangelina Ussin and Dee Nilsen work together to haul garbage from a Jefferson Parish yard By Becca Price
02/28/06

The Nilsen family spent part of their winter break rebuilding the homes and participating in cleanup efforts for families in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans who were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The Nilsen’s organized $3,000 in cash donations, toys, and supplies for their relief trip to Louisiana. Dee Nilsen, a member of Technical Support-East Campus, and her husband, a cabinet maker and clergyman, along with their daughter made the journey to Louisiana in hopes of making a difference. Teaming up with two more people from Lutheran Disaster Relief, Cynthia Long and John Lasher, and a faculty member in Social Work. B.J. Bryson, the Nilsen family spent six days helping residents clean their yards and homes.

It was in the Lower Ninth Ward that the Nilsen family met Evangelina Ussin, another volunteer who introduced them to several other people whose tattered and inundated homes also needed attention. In addition to the many hours of physical labor, the Nilsen family also hosted a Christmas party at a local Pentecost Baptist church. Over 100 children were in attendance, and each child received several Christmas presents. Brother Gary Wood, pastor of the Pentecost Missionary Baptist Church, gratefully commented that “they really came and made a lasting mark within our community. There were some little guys that were really happy [with their presents]. It was just a great time that we had, real good fellowship, a relationship was formed.”

On their journey back to the Shenandoah Valley in late December, daughter Emily Nilsen, a JMU student, felt that it just wasn’t right to come back home when there was so much work to be done. Now, two months later, the Nilsen family is already planning a return trip back to Louisiana, this time with JMU students. Over spring break, the Nilsen family along with fourteen JMU students, including Geography Club and Phi Sigma Pi members, will be headed down to work in Slidell, Louisiana and the surrounding communities where they are told volunteers are scarce.

Although they will be working at different locations on this trip, they will still get to spend time with Evangelina, Pastor Wood and his wife Jennifer who they met on their last excursion. The volunteers will also be hosting a pizza party one evening at the Baptist Church. Dee Nilsen states that she hopes, “we can bring more happiness and feelings of relief to the people in the areas as we did at the Christmas party in December. This is the purpose of the pizza party. The people have such a need to tell their stories. Our group is going to give the people this opportunity. We will listen and perhaps share our feelings about what these people have had to endure.”

Photo: Part of the volunteer group, B.J. Bryson, Emily Nilsen and John Lasher, cleaning up a home in the Lower 9th Ward which also served as a church for the Baptist community.The Nilsen family and JMU volunteers are collecting gift card donations for their trip over spring break. “All we kept hearing [on our last trip] are gift cards to Lowes, Home Depot, Sears, and Wal-Mart [are needed]. You don’t have to be in Louisiana to help.” These gift cards will go to the Hurricane Katrina survivors who are in need of assistance purchasing supplies to rebuild their homes. Cash donations are also welcome for anyone who would like to support the “Hurricane Katrina Relief” pizza party. Anyone interested in volunteering in the Hurricane Katrina Relief effort or in making a contribution can contact Dee Nilsen at (office) 568-6619 or nilsenda@jmu.edu. Interested student volunteers can get in touch with student coordinator Emily Nilsen at (dorm) 612-7759, (cell) 540-975-0550, or nilsenem@jmu.edu.