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'The Colonel Closet' helping Nicholls faculty, staff and students recovering from Hurricane Ida

“The need has never been greater among our students, and our faculty, and staff as well."

THIBODAUX, La. — In Lafourche Parish, hard hit by Hurricane Ida, one woman had an idea on how to help families still without homes.

And when a friend of hers in New Orleans heard about the idea, the project took off among hundreds of people.

The Nicholls State community knows how hard it can be to rebuild after a hurricane. Students and faculty have lived and lost through Hurricanes Laura and Ida. So when the Nicholls Case Manager of Student Affairs started hearing of all the stories and needs, she came up with an idea.

“I get lots of hugs. I get lots of hugs, lots of thank yous,” said Andi Sonnier, a licensed social worker and Nicholls Case Manager of Student Affairs.

It took only two days in mid-September for Andi Sonnier to open The Colonel Closet. It's a thrift store on campus with nice clothes, food, toiletries and household items. But what's different is, shopping for students, faculty and their families is free. At first, that made shoppers uncomfortable.

“And they wanted to come up and, you know, provide money. They wanted to check out, wanted to show us what they were taking to make sure it was OK,” remembers Sonnier.

When she told her New Orleans friend, Leann Moses, about her project, word of mouth spread fast. A couple of hundred friends, and friends of friends, sent seven carloads of donations to The Colonel Closet.

“We are so lucky in New Orleans that so many people helped us after Hurricane Katrina, and we know the importance and the power of teamwork,” said Leann Moses, a New Orleans attorney who is friends with Sonnier.

Donations have poured in from other states. Pallets and pallets came from Texas. And there was an anonymous drop-off came of Dopp kits filled with toiletries. Back inventory sits, waiting to be put out.

Displaced families still live in student housing on campus. Some students had to drop out of school to rebuild their homes and take care of their families.

“The need has never been greater among our students, and our faculty, and staff as well,” said Dr. Michele Caruso, The Nicholls Vice President of Student Affairs.

Students are grateful.

“It's helped us through hard times. We didn't have clothes. We were able to come here and get some with damage through the hurricane, and it's really great to see how the community came together,” said Nicholls student Caytlyn Crochet.

“I come actually for the food, for the grocery aspect of it. So it just saves money here and there. Being a college student, you want to save money where ever you can,” said Nicholls student Abigail Bouzigard.

Students are also asked to give back, to repurpose what they no longer need. But the main goal is to not have them worry about basic needs, so they can focus on walking across the commencement stage one day.

How to help:

Call 985-493-2529 to donate items. There is some limited pick up available.

Or drop off at The Colonel Closet: 145 Cercle de L’Universite’, Thibodaux, LA 70301 on the Nicholls Campus.

To donate funds, visit Nicholls website here and click the donate button at the top. Also on the website, there is a link to the items in need that you can order from Amazon and have sent to the address above.

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