Alpha Zeta, a national professional, honor society for men and women in agriculture, is traveling to Louisiana Dec. 17-22 to assist farmers, ranchers and rural communities still reeling from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

More than a year after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast region, normalcy has yet to return, according to Scott Bickham, field services representative for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. “Debris and trees may be cleared, but lots of people are still living in tents and trailers, many schools haven’t reopened and few services are available.”

Thirty Alpha Zeta members from colleges across the country will converge on Vermilion Parish in south central Louisiana for the five-day volunteer project. They will be mending fences, rebuilding barns and clearing brush and debris.

“There’s still work to be done,” said Brian Reuwee, Alpha Zeta associate director. “When we went in January — four months after the hurricanes — southern Louisiana was still a disaster area. I knew it wouldn’t be a one-time visit.”

Louisiana Farm Bureau is helping to place the Alpha Zeta crew in locations with the greatest need. In Vermilion Parish, cattle and grain farmers and were ravaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Farm Bureau also is providing lodging for the group.

The Alpha Zeta Foundation is supplying transportation for the work trip; however, volunteers are paying their own way to St. Louis, where the group will gather and depart.

“This is such an awesome project,” said Colleen Mulrooney, who participated in the first work trip. “The distance and cost weren’t part of the equation. I just had to be a part of it.”

Participants are from California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New York and Ohio. Many are sacrificing time with family and friends to volunteer for the trip.

Although the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation is helping to offset some costs, the Alpha Zeta Foundation is relying on donations to help fund the balance for transportation and meals during the five-day trip.

To support the Alpha Zeta Foundation call: (800) 225-3629 or write: 16020 Swingley Ridge Road, Suite 300; Chesterfield, MO 63017.

More information is available on the Alpha Zeta Web site at http://www.alphazeta.org.

To contact a volunteer or for a complete list of participants, call or e-mail Brian Reuwee, Alpha Zeta associate director at reuwee@alphazeta.org.

Alpha Zeta is the oldest national professional honor society for men and women in agriculture and natural resources. Founded in 1897 at the Ohio State University, Alpha Zeta has grown to 73 chapters and initiates more than 1,000 of the brightest students in agriculture annually at universities nationwide.

Alumni membership totals more than 117,000. The organization is dedicated to recognizing scholarship, developing leadership, building character and fostering fellowship in the agricultural and natural resource professions.

The Alpha Zeta Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational foundation dedicated to recognizing, supporting and promoting leadership, scholarship, character, fellowship and service in agriculture. Donations to the Alpha Zeta Foundation are tax-deductible.