Volunteers from Catholic Charities USA aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Image from catholiccharitiesUSA.org

Over 1,500 miles separate King’s College and Houston, but that didn’t stop the campus community from reaching out to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, the first to hit the United States since 2004. For five days, the storm crept across southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, leaving some areas with over 50 inches of rainfall. The storm destroyed thousands of homes, and shelters are still crowded with victims. Meanwhile, the recovery process looms as a massive task. On September 3, Texas Governor Greg Abbott reported that it could cost as much as $180 billion to rebuild the state, making it the costliest natural disaster in US history.

Organizations across campus quickly reacted to the need.

“Whenever there’s a natural disaster or a humanitarian crisis, usually multiple offices at King’s will say, ‘Let’s do something.’ And that’s a wonderful thing,” Bill Bolan, Director of the Shoval Center said.

The Shoval Center and several other campus offices teamed up to hold one concentrated collection to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey. The Office of Campus Activities, the Post Office, Campus Ministry, McGowan School of Business, and O’Hara Hall all put out donation jars during the first few weeks of classes. When the drive ended on September 14, Bolan reported that they raised $1,356.

The proceeds will go to Catholic Charities USA, a nonprofit that provides disaster relief. Volunteer members are currently on the ground in Houston providing food and shelter, as well as creating long-term planning efforts.

“We’re hoping that a portion will go to help people not only get through the next couple of weeks, but also to rebuild their lives,” Bolan noted.

The King’s College women’s basketball, cross country, and track and field teams also responded to the crisis by holding a clothing drive. The idea began when Kelvin Sampson, men’s basketball coach at the University of Houston, requested that high school and college basketball teams nationwide send 20 of their school shirts and 10 pairs of shoes to Texas.

“The basketball coaching community is very close. Our team was already trying to think of how we could help. So once we saw Coach Sampson’s request out on social media we, along with the basketball community, ran with it,” Caitlin Hadzimichalis, head coach of the King’s College women’s basketball team said via email.

The cross country and track and field teams were also planning a drive. When they heard about the basketball team’s goals, they combined efforts to spread the word more effectively.

The teams exceeded Sampson’s original request. Hadzimichalis estimated that they physically collected eight large bags and boxes of clothing. They asked donors to hold onto an additional 12 boxes and bags because their contacts in Houston have reached their capacity to effectively process and distribute the clothing.

However, the Hurricane Harvey victims aren’t the only ones in need of disaster relief. On September 10, Hurricane Irma struck Florida. According to the Weather Channel, this is the first time in 166 years of records that two Category 4 hurricanes made US landfall within the same year.

The basketball, cross country, and track and field teams are looking to send some of the overflow of clothing to a contact in Florida.

The Shoval Center will also turn its attention to Florida in the upcoming weeks.

“We want to avoid donation fatigue, but we will be doing something for Hurricane Irma,” Bolan explained. “The problem’s not going to go away. Just like Harvey, they’re going to be rebuilding for months and years.”