Valdosta State aids SRTC-ABAC clean up

Published 4:49 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

On a campus covered in downed trees, Southern Regional Technical College President Dr. Craig Wentworth walked with Valdosta State President Dr. Richard Carvajal Wednesday morning, examining the damage occurred from Hurricane Michael.

More than 100 trees were blown over as wind gusts up to 135 MPH swept through Bainbridge more than two weeks ago. The SRTC Bainbridge campus took a heavy hit, and cleanup efforts began immediately after it was safe.

When Carvajal caught word of what happened to a community and college he still cares deeply about, he picked up a phone.

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“This is obviously this community’s local institution, and I know that better than anybody,” said Carvajal, who served as Bainbridge State College president from 2011 to 2015. “Valdosta State is South Georgia’s regional university. Our mission is to serve a 41 county service area in South Georgia that includes this area. Even though I live in another town, I still get to think about what happens here. When this happened, obviously, that’s where our focus turned.”

It took a couple of days for him to learn of the devastation, primarily because Bainbridge was gridlocked, out of power and overwhelmed by the damage. Valdosta State sent a crew of volunteers to Albany to help clean.

A few days later, Carvajal heard about Bainbridge. He sent staff to the campus, and some volunteers even left Albany to come directly to Bainbridge.

The cleanup effort has lasted almost two weeks. Seventeen Valdosta State workers were on campus, cleaning debris alongside SRTC workers.

“To have the Valdosta State guys come over—not even their own campus—and show that kind of work ethic really is very commendable,” said Wentworth.

Carvajal and Valdosta State isn’t the only aid he was impressed by.

With the Southwest Georgia community reeling, SRTC’s Bainbridge campus quickly became a staging location for the Georgia National Guard, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Community Supervision, and utility providers. Cots filled the Student Wellness Center and the Kirbo Center to accommodate these responders. The Georgia National Guard rallied in SRTC’s parking lot to provide ice, water, tarps, and food to victims of the storm.

As the region began to pull itself back together, it became clear, however, that SRTC’s campuses could not resume their normal operation without a herculean effort.

Immediately after the storm, the maintenance and custodial staff went beyond the call of duty, working day and night to clear and clean up the campuses even as many of their own homes were without power.

Across the 17 counties in Valdosta State’s service area affected by Hurricane Michael, Carvajal has extended a scholarship offer for applicants who experienced hardships as a result of the storm.

“We have set aside $60,000 in scholarship money for applicants from any of the 17 of our 41 counties,” said Carvajal.