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Marcellus soccer team helps Katrina victims

To this day, parts of Louisiana's coast look like war-torn third-world countries in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Homes have yet to be demolished and rebuilt, leaving many residents in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a far cry from what "home, sweet home" should feel like.

"You look around and see abandoned houses and the government has done nothing to help these people," said Marcellus senior Jenna Sniffen, adding that the work being done in the area is primarily due to a volunteer force.

Maria Hernandez is one such person who has been living in a FEMA trailer for the last three years. With the help of the Marcellus High School girls varsity soccer team, though, Hernandez's dreams of having a place to call home once again have become much more of a reality.

"They talked about it on the news here, but you can't really picture it until you go down there," said Chelsea Allen, also a senior at Marcellus High. "From going down there, there's still so many things that need to be done."

Allen and Sniffen, along with eight of their teammates, coach Laurie Updike and seven other adults, witnessed first-hand the devastation left following Hurricane Katrina. The group of 18 traveled to Chalmette and New Orleans from July 12 to 20 for a week-long venture volunteering with Operation Southern Comfort where they began building a new home for Hernandez.

Updike said she had asked her captains in February if they would like to go as a team to New Orleans to volunteer with the organization. The answer was a resounding "yes" and fundraising began shortly thereafter.

After raising more than $2,500 from selling T-shirts, concessions, pizzas, candy and soliciting for donations, the team received a $2,500 matching donation from Covanta Energy.

But it's not the experience of raising money at home that has left an impression on the team -- it was being in the midst of a still unrecognizable part of the nation and the experience of helping those in need.

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