In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, La Verne alumnus Charlene Marie King brought hope to the Gulf Coast by volunteering her time and rebuilding houses that had been destroyed. To this day, she continues to volunteer in areas that have been affected by natural disasters.
King began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2006.
“My niece and I were watching the news and we saw how badly the area had been affected by Katrina,” King said. “As I watched, I decided I would go down and help.”
She flew to Mississippi and stayed there for seven weeks in an effort to help rebuild the area.
During her seven-week stay, she worked with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and continues to volunteer her time with them to this day.
In 2008, she founded the Not Forgotten Project, which aims to gather people throughout the United States to help rebuild areas that have been affected by natural disasters.
King works part-time at the Sash Company, which makes pageant sashes, in order to be able to spend weeks at a time volunteering in distressed areas.
She pays for her travel expenses when volunteering with organizations, but often receives donations from her friends and her church.
Although King had never worked with a volunteer organization prior to Hurricane Katrina, she was no stranger to helping others on a daily basis. King has previously worked with the Boys and Girls Club and the David and Margaret Home as a counselor, and was the adviser for the University’s Working On Not Disappointing Our God, or WONDOG, club.
“Charlene enters every situation she encounters with humility and with others’ best interest at heart,” Michelle Scribner, a senior speech communication major and friend of King, said. “She is always there for everyone and willing to help with any problems.”
Last summer marked the nineteenth time she visited the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina. She has also traveled to the towns of Joplin, Mo.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Moore, Okla., which were devastated by tornadoes.
After Hurricane Sandy struck, King went to New Jersey for six weeks to help rebuild areas that were damaged. Before she arrived there, she stopped and volunteered in Mississippi and Oklahoma.
King did not go alone on this trip; she rallied a group of volunteers from Michigan through the Not Forgotten Project to help restore New Jersey with her.
“When I got there it was different than other places I’ve volunteered at. There is better funding, so the rebuilding process will hopefully go faster,” King said.
Although funding may be better, volunteer labor is still a critical component of the rebuilding effort, and King wants to continue to contribute there as long as the effort is needed.
Now that she is back from New Jersey, King is reaching out to the University community. She is talking with faculty to try to arrange an alternative spring break trip in March.
She said that she hopes she can gather students to spend the week in Moore, Okla., and help rebuild homes in the area.
“Sometimes when people graduate, they never come back, so it’s great that she’s reaching out to the La Verne community and helping others,” Breana White, a senior psychology major and a friend of King, said.
The trip to Oklahoma in March will be her first volunteer trip of the new year and she plans to spend the following seven months travelling between Oklahoma, Mississippi and New Jersey.
“I’ve had a compulsion to help people all my life. I’ll go wherever I’m needed.”
Liz Ortiz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.