When Heith McCracken joined Lambda Chi Alpha at Huntingdon College, he was looking to be a part of an organization that was bigger than himself. He quickly tackled leadership opportunities within the fraternity and found that service was something that grounded him and reminded him of the human experience.

As the news rolled in about Hurricane Florence, then, and the devastation it was causing the Carolinas, McCracken knew he had to help. After all, Lambda Chi had taught him the importance of service.

Even before Hurricane Florence hit, McCracken knew he needed to help where he could. Photo courtesy of Heith McCracken.

McCracken joined the Cajun Navy, a non-profit organization based in Louisiana whose mission is to help their neighbors when natural disasters hit. Through the organization, McCracken aided local fire departments in search and rescue operations with a small fleet of trucks and boats. It was then McCracken’s responsibility to coordinate how many volunteers would go to each rescue site.

According to McCracken, the hardest part of the search and rescue operations was not only navigating streets that would flood over the course of a day, but not being able to conduct rescues during the night.

“It’s kind of frustrating, because you know there are still people that are out there, but it would be too dangerous because roads are being washed out,” said McCracken. “So, even crawling along at two miles an hour at night, you could still mess up.”

But for the time that McCracken did aid the Cajun Navy, he felt as though he was making a large difference. Trained in shallow and deep water rescue, along with CPR, McCracken usually served as the navigator for each rescue mission, stepping in where necessary. He has also played a huge part in distributing food and supplies to those who have been displaced from their homes.

McCracken rescued all walks of life, including many animals. Photo courtesy of Heith McCracken.

Though McCracken was only in the area for about a week, the idea that he had a small part in the effort to help the countless individuals affected by this tragedy was what kept him going, even in the most difficult of rescues.

“It [service] helps ground me, “said McCracken. “Whenever I help give back, it just kind of makes me appreciate what I have and gives me a better focus.”

McCracken says he is always eager to find some way to help those around him and credits Lambda Chi for fostering his love of service and preparing him for unpredictable situations. Regardless of the many dangers he encountered in his time with the Cajun Navy, McCracken remained firm in his dedication to helping the people of the Carolinas during this difficult time.

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