Southwestern Students Help with Relief Efforts for Hurricane Harvey

Students spent two days assembling clean-up buckets like the one shown here.

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the city of Houston on Aug. 26, disaster relief efforts were already beginning 253 miles to the north in Keene, Texas.

Adventist Community Services, or ACS, is an organization that provides disaster response to those who need it across the nation. With 1,250 locations, they are able to act quickly with gathering supplies and packing them up to ship to affected areas.

Hurricane Harvey first hit the coastal town of Rockport, near Corpus Christi, moving north and stalling over Houston for two days, dumping more than 30 inches of water in certain areas. The storm moved out briefly and then swung back around to hit Houston and parts of Louisiana a second time.

The cities of Rockport, Port Arthur, Orange and Beaumont were hit the hardest. As the residents of Houston were going through the one of the worst hurricanes on record, Southwestern Adventist University students were at the ACS warehouse helping gather and sort through supplies intended for victims in the affected areas.

“I really hope these efforts aren’t in vain. We have the chance to witness and show the people of Houston we’re here and we want to help them,” said Yenise Warner, a senior nursing student.

Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2 saw many students from the university in the ACS warehouse helping sort through donated clothes to be prepared and packed away while other students created comfort kits, basically toiletries wrapped between a washcloth and towel.

“The response has been amazing,” Diamond Taylor, one of the RAs for the freshman dorm said. “It was nice being able to be a part of the effort to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey.” Diamond was just of the students who have friends and family in Houston and Corpus Christi who had no choice to stay at school and hope everything would be okay.

Between that Saturday and when the students went back on Sept. 8, various departments in the school were helping out as well, holding donation drives for Keene Spanish Church. The Enactus business group and women’s residence were among those who found a way to help contribute. Men’s Dean William Iverson took a group of 26 students to Houston to help The Oaks Adventist School with their cleanup.

Clean-up was next on the list for the ACS. On Friday, Sept. 9, some of the RAs went back to join the assembly line that was constructing cleaning buckets. Big drum yellow buckets were filled almost to the brim with paper towels, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, clothespins, scrub brush, sponges, trash bags, rope, wipes, rubber gloves and work gloves.

“I love how organized the whole thing was,” Warner said. Warner was part of the crew that was there that night. “They had everything set up for us and how they wanted to distribute it.”

Three hundred buckets were put together by the RAs, students and facility members that came by to help, and loaded onto the truck to be shipped out.

One of the receivers of these buckets was former student Andrew Rodriguez, one of the many people affected in Houston. “Possessions can be replaced but people can’t,” he says. “I’m glad the causalities weren’t that high, honestly, and it’s unfortunate that lives were lost. But the true blessing are seeing everyone come together and act as a community doing what we can for each other.”

He wasn’t alone in his thinking. Tishana McCloud, one of the Head RAs, said, “The whole experience was wonderful. Coming from Florida, knowing how that feels at that stage of not having anything, to help now is good.”

As Houston continues to cleanup and Florida now begins their own, ACS and SWAU students will remain ready to help and serve in any way they can.

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