Rescuers gather on a flooded highway in Houston, Texas. Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Students, faculty and administrators are supporting victims of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction by starting donation drives, volunteering with cleanup efforts and raising money.

In a recent email addressing students and faculty, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy outlined UTSA’s efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“The devastation that Harvey brought to Texas this past weekend is of unparalleled dimension,” said Eighmy. “Many families of our students, faculty and staff were directly impacted by this terrible storm and the severe flooding in South Central and Southeast Texas and the Houston region. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who will spend weeks, if not months, recovering from this tragedy.”

Eighmy called Roadrunners to action and stated some relief efforts are already underway at UTSA. From housing for refugees to support services to those who were directly affected by the tragedy, UTSA faculty and students were directed to campus resources for assistance.

One organization that responded quickly was the Black Student Leadership Council (BSLC). The BSLC is leading a month-long donation drive.

Lorelle Jackson and Terralyn Wilburn sort through donated goods. Photo Courtesy of Isabella Beltri.

“As a council of Roadrunners, we truly believe in the spirit of giving to those who need it most,” said Terralyn Wilburn, senior political science major and president of Women of Honor. “We feel this drive will make a significant contribution to the fresh start our fellow Texans are seeking.”

The support of the Texas community has been huge. Jon Onstead, Houstonian and owner of The Block SA, provided a detailed account of the situation facing Houston residents.

“Houston turned into Venice; the traffic was in boats,” said Onstead. “It was almost like being on a lake with buildings. The feeling was surreal.”

Onstead recalls his mother’s house being under water. Onstead decided he wanted to aid the relief efforts and took his kayak to paddle down Memorial Street, handing members of the sheriff’s department cases of water for victims of the flooding.

Other Roadrunners continue to help with efforts and hope to bring relief to those affected by the tragedy. Austin Espiritu, junior general business management major, continues to help the Houston community with an HEB crew. Espiritu is one of 100 HEB partners from San Antonio to provide relief to other HEB partners in Houston.

“We had (HEB) partners working around the clock. Stores were overrun and the shelves were empty. We knew our associates needed to get home and worry about their own property and damages,” said Espiritu.

He and other HEB associates helped people during their breaks. “The hotel we are staying at is in walking distance of a neighborhood. While it is difficult to get clearance, we knew we had to help the people who had no water. We brought snacks for their children and water for as many as we could; it was the least we could do.”

Espiritu described his experience as eye opening. “Seeing everything that has happened has put everything into perspective. Be thankful for what you have, people here have it tough.”

Onstead was moved by the amount of love and support he had seen from the community.

“Minus all the devastation and minus all the loss of materials, everything is okay,” Onstead said. “With catastrophe, you see unity. Unity of people helping others is compelling. It makes you happy to be alive and happy to be human. The compassion and sensitivity we saw, not just Houstonians, makes you think ‘this is how life should be.’”

UTSA is advising students and faculty to continue giving. The Roadrunner Pantry is taking donations and offering emergency kits of food and hygiene products. The Honor Student Leadership Council will be hosting a Fill The Truck campaign through Sept. 8, where students can drop off non-perishable items at the Honors College student lounge in the MS building. According to Eighmy, The Student Government Association and Student Affairs are discussing a coordinated relief effort and will soon have details to share with the rest of the community.

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