Associate dean helps Katrina victims

Brady C. Mallory

Brady C. Mallory

Biblical lessons teach the masses that it is important to be a Good Samaritan to those who need help.

With the damage done in the South by Hurricane Katrina, the need for Good Samaritans is higher than the price of gas. There are many in Brookings who have done their part to aid in the relief effort.

One man at SDSU journeyed to the destruction and aided those who lost their possessions, homes, families, lives and sense of security.

Howard Smith, associate dean of the College of Education and Counseling, was in Louisiana Sept. 7 through Sept. 21 as a disaster mental health officer. Many charities and fundraisers have provided for the monetary needs of the cities and people. For those who needed emotional and mental guidance, Smith and other licensed mental health practitioners provided mental health support, or counseling, to those who sought psychological first aid from the wreckage.

A licensed mental health counselor, Smith notes that his services in the hurricane-damaged areas are vastly different from any regular desk job.

“You don’t have an office. Walking through the debris, sitting on a cot in a shelter, that’s your office,” Smith said. “It’s different in many ways. Clients don’t make appointments, we find them.”

Smith also got a taste of what day-to-day life has become for the victims of such a disaster. Due to the fact that all hotels were booked, those providing relief stayed in the shelters as well. Spending so much time with those who inhabited the shelters showed the morale of the people.

“There’s a sense of loss. You’re not in control of your life as some of us like to be,” Smith said.

Though the conditions of the centers may not be ideal-with crying children, public showers and more than 6,000 inhabitants in each shelter-people have some form of shelter during a time when resources are scarce. In addition, many families are coming to the realization that some of their loved ones will not emerge from the destruction and will become only fond memories. However, through small miracles, some have found lost loved ones.

“A guy happened to be watching TV and saw his wife on The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Smith said with a smile.

According to Smith, going to the disaster site is not necessary to help the cause. With the knowledge of more than 347,000 homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, many people in South Dakota have opened their hearts as well as their homes to people who have lost their homes. The state is now ready for 300 to 400 families.

SDSU has become a significant support system by giving six full scholarships to students from the hurricane-ravaged South. SDSU students have also been curious about how they can get involved. Smith, who works with the Red Cross, said even the smallest contribution makes all the difference.

He explained that one does not have to be a licensed professional to get involved with the cause. Anyone can go, as long as they have completed an online course for disaster relief. The course takes a couple of hours. Smith also encouraged the SDSU Students’ Association to join forces with the Red Cross and Salvation Army to fundraise.

“I really salute the students here who want to help. The ones who even ask how they can help, it is an indication of strong character,” Smith said. “If they get something organized, great. If not, we know their hearts are in the right place.”

Smith realizes his contributions were of great importance, but like any Good Samaritan, he gives credit to the countless others who are doing their part.

“The upper Midwest has pretty good values in wanting to help folks. They see beyond themselves,” said Smith.