Rally revs up volunteers

Aman Ali

KSU dedicates day to Biloxi relief efforts

Linda B. Walker, Kent State Gospel Choir director, leads the crowd that gathered for the Kent State United for Biloxi Day event, in the singing of “Amazing Grace.” Walker, who founded the choir, is also an associate professor of music and a coordinator of

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The sounds of hit songs, such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and more traditional ones such as “Amazing Grace,” cascaded throughout the Student Center yesterday.

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Panama? No thanks – we’re going to Biloxi.

As more than 400 Kent State students, faculty and staff gather their gear in preparation for a relief effort in Biloxi, Miss., this Spring Break, so is the Daily Kent Stater.

From Saturday through April 1, student affairs reporter Aman Ali and assistant photo editor Gavin Jackson will be accompanying the Kent State United for Biloxi volunteers as they help residents in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Through StaterOnline.com we will be providing daily stories, photographs and blogs about the volunteers’ experiences in the hurricane-devastated region.

Be sure to check out our Web site for complete coverage of this unique Spring Break relief effort. And when classes resume, read the print edition of the Stater for a complete wrap-up of the trip.

The Flasher Brass Basketball Band and the Kent State University Gospel Choir provided the musical backdrop to kick off the university declared “Kent State United for Biloxi Day.”

The event rallied support for the volunteers traveling to Mississippi Saturday for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. As of yesterday, 405 participants have signed up for the alternative Spring Break trip.

“This university has made one of the largest humanitarian commitments to this cause,” George Garrison, professor of Pan-African studies, said.

Garrison thanked sponsors and supporters of the relief trip as well.

“This expression of unity is a model for other important causes in the future,” Garrison said. “We appreciate your contributions and keep us in your prayers.”

Religious leaders from organizations around the community were present to lead the crowd in a brief interfaith prayer service.

“Lord, we seek your blessings on these selfless volunteers – who are ready to personally carry your message of hope from Ohio to Mississippi,” said Surinder Bardwaj, a Hindu and retired geography professor.

Other religious leaders shared scripture verses to support the volunteer efforts. Mike Levinstein, assistant director of Hillel, cited Pirke Avot 2:16 from the Torah.

“We are taught by Jewish tradition that ‘It is not your obligation to complete the task but neither are you free to abstain from it entirely,'” Levinstein said.

Some of the tasks completed during the send-off rally were last-minute fundraising efforts. Volunteers sold Kent State United for Biloxi T-shirts and raffle tickets. Prizes from the raffles included an autographed basketball from the Kent State men’s basketball team and Cleveland Indians tickets.

Ron Perkins, assistant director for University Dining Services, said volunteers raised over $2,000 from the raffle tickets and T-shirts.

Provost Paul Gaston spoke on behalf of the university and thanked the volunteers for their work. He gave volunteers on hand a brief culture lesson on Mississippi, the state he grew up in. He said locals in Mississippi pronounce the state as “Missippi” and use phrases such as “y’all.”

“Y’all are going to do us all proud in Missippi,” Gaston joked.

Contact student affairs reporter Aman Ali at [email protected]