Helping New Orleans make a comeback is her personal passion
Brittany Aydelotte has visited New Orleans 10 times, sharing her love for the city with each new group of volunteers.
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"Whether we are here putting up drywall, painting, sorting Mardi Gras beads, or pulling nails out of wood, everybody can take back lessons about connecting with people – and remember that just because something happened a long time ago, [it] doesn't mean it has been fixed," she says.Skip to next paragraph
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The first-time visitors she brings to New Orleans are moved when they see the lack of progress that has been made in rebuilding parts of the city, she says. Even today, entire blocks that used to be filled with occupants are entirely vacant.
As news about the city and its needs has slowly receded from the headlines, Aydelotte says, many people have forgotten about New Orleans and hurricane Katrina.
But volunteers, she says, continue to make a difference for the city.
"Volunteers have played a very important role in rebuilding New Orleans," she says. "They are reminding people that [the city] is still not back, letting others know about what needs to be done here."
Aydelotte's passion for rebuilding the city has rubbed off on sophomore Kayla Simpkins, who has been on three service trips to New Orleans and was a student coordinator for a recent winter trip.
"You can drive down any street, through any part of the city, and [Aydelotte] can tell you a story about it," Ms. Simpkins says. "I saw her leadership and how she inspired other groups, and I wanted to do the same for incoming freshmen."
Aydelotte's mission far surpasses a simple desire to do a service project, Simpkins says. "She is not just going down to do relief work," Simpkins says. "She is really invested in the city and cares a lot about it."
In fact, Aydelotte has considered moving to New Orleans.
"I love the people and the culture of the city the most, and the rebuilding efforts are certainly something that I am passionate about," she says.
While Aydelotte may not be ready to move, the Cinnaminson, N.J., native relishes the opportunity to bring 30 or 40 students to the city each year, introducing them to a fascinating place and fostering in them a love for the city – and for serving others – that mirrors her own.
One powerful moment for her is when she hears students talk about the people they meet in New Orleans. "I have begun to feel everyone else's passion – on top of my own – for the city," she says.
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