On the road to recovery

Debris lies on the side of a street near C.E. King High School in the Sheldon neighborhood of Houston. Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 26, causing widespread flooding and devastation. Photo by Saher Aqeel | Photo Editor.

Following the wake of destruction left by Hurricane Harvey, students and staff from UTD mobilized to provide relief for those affected in Houston.

Student athletes from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee organized a collection booth at the Plinth the day after Hurricane Harvey. Students took time between their classes to help man the booth and organize the collection process.

In total, student athletes collected over 1,000 physical donations. The SAAC gave these contributions to the Trusted World Foundation, an organization designated by Dallas to collect and distribute physical donations.

“I was really proud they wanted to do something, and I was really proud they stepped up and said, ‘What can we do?’” Angela Marin, an associate athletic director at UTD, said.

Marin and athletic marketing coordinator Valerie Hoops worked with the Office of Student Volunteerism to help collect monetary donations over the two weeks following the hurricane. The two organizations collected a total of $5,500 that was donated to the American Red Cross.

“It turned into a much bigger endeavor than we ever thought it would be, but that just goes to show that we’re a very giving campus,” Marin said. “It was really cool to see it all come together.”

Independent of OSV and SAAC efforts, Delta Tau Delta and Alpha Epsilon Delta raised over $1,000 in monetary and physical donations.

Apart from on-campus activity, individual students also went down to Houston to volunteer their time.

For Bonnie Helm, an MBA student, going to help with the relief effort in Houston was a personal mission. Helm grew up in Houston before coming to study at UTD. During the hurricane, her parents and childhood friends directly experienced Harvey’s impact.

“We’re very lucky that the house I grew up in wasn’t harmed, but a lot of the neighborhoods and areas … I grew up in are just gone.” Helm said.

Scheduled to work a 5 a.m. shift at the NRG Convention Center in Houston to help displaced families, Helm and alumnus Tyler Hurst were turned away due to an influx of volunteers who had shown up unscheduled.

“Yeah, it sucked that we (were) turned away because we had woken up at 4 in the morning,” Helm said. “But at the same time, that really shows a sense of community and that made me really happy.”

Helm spent over an hour looking for any place that had room for them to volunteer. At around 6:30 a.m., she found a nonprofit called Best Friends, a national animal welfare organization with an emphasis on a no-kill policy for rescued pets. The organization’s mission in Houston is to reunite pets with their families and put the rest up for adoption.

“We actually got to see a couple of reunions between the owners and the dogs, and that was so cool because they would let the dog go and it would just bound over to its owner,” Helm said. “It was just so heartwarming.”

Helm and Hurst volunteered over 14 hours during the Saturday and Sunday they were in Houston. During that time, they worked odd jobs around the shelter.

“We were cleaning out kennels, distributing food and stuffed KONGs (a treat dispensing dog toy) with peanut butter. We also made dog toys out of towels, walked the dogs and just tried to take care of them the best we could,” Helm said.

Pets that are unclaimed will be moved to shelters for adoption on Oct. 14. As a part of Best Friend’s mission, none of the animals will be put down, and they will be cared for until they are adopted.

UTD relief to Harvey victims will continue when the SAAC goes to Houston on Nov. 21.

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