A Helping Hand from Someone who Almost Lost it All: TNCC Adjunct Faculty Helped Victims of Hurricane Katrina

Published: March 3, 2006

THE VIRGINIA PENINSULA – In September, as Thomas Nelson Community College adjunct faculty Doris Bryant watched the news about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast Area, she felt the urge to actively help those who had lost all their belongings and in many cases their family members to this natural disaster.

Bryant became a volunteer for the Red Cross and after attending an orientation and training session, was sent to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to be part of the relief efforts. From October 6 through October 20, she was part of a team of volunteers driving trucks and delivering hot meals to shelters in Baton Rouge. She lived in the River View shelter along with hundreds of victims of Hurricane Katrina. Her living conditions were the same as all other refugees. She slept on a cot and shared the shelter’s facilities with hundreds of victims. Her day usually started at 4:30 a.m. in a line in front of the restrooms. At 6:30 a.m., she was ready to start her official 12-hour day shift loading and unloading hot meals around the town. At 6:30 p.m., exhausted, Doris ended her day. The people she had met during the day would give her the motivation to continue her volunteer work the following day. In her rounds, Bryant met many people whose positive attitude in spite of their grim reality taught her a valuable lesson in life. “I was amazed at the positive attitude of people,” Bryant said. “They were determined to make it through the rough times and recover from the devastation they were suffering after Katrina. Many of the people had lost absolutely everything.”

This experience was so rewarding, that Bryant now plans to join the Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry seeking to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world by inviting people of all backgrounds to build houses in partnership with families in need. This summer, she will be spending a month with a Habitat for Humanity team, building a home. Bryant is currently being trained to be a member of the local Disaster Relief Team with the local Red Cross. She thinks that it is important to give back to the community. “If a disaster like that happened in Virginia, I would want people to volunteer to help us too,” she said.

Serving as a Red Cross volunteer in Louisiana has been one of the most meaningful experiences in Bryant’s life. “Seeing so much devastation has given me a different perspective in life. It has made me feel very appreciative for what I have. I think I am very fortunate.”

Bryant has experienced her own feelings of devastation. In 1995, she was diagnosed with a form of cancer that was localized in her left chest wall. By 1997, the cancer had metastasized to her spine. Ten years later, she is cancer-free and determined to make each day of her life a rewarding and meaningful one. “If I am still here, it is for a reason,” she said. “I will take every opportunity to help those in need and make my life more meaningful.”

Bryant has been an adjunct faculty member at TNCC since January, 2001. She teaches developmental classes in English and Reading. She is also a TNCC alumnus. She was part of the first group of students joining TNCC when the College opened its doors in 1968. She graduated from TNCC with an associate degree in Education and continued to pursue her education at CNU where she received a bachelor’s degree in History and ultimately, attended the College of William & Mary where she received a master’s degree in Reading Education. She also spent a year in residence at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington receiving additional training in Reading.

Bryant is a resident of the City of Hampton.

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