HOST: In late August and early September of 2017 Hurricane Harvey hit the south Texas coast with a vengeance. Coming in at Category 4 intensity, the storm killed 80 people in the United States and drove thousands from their homes. Over 300,000 people were left without power.
HOST: Missouri Southern sophomore Social Work major Amanda Hosp was one of the volunteers who rushed to the scene. She worked in an American Red Cross shelter in Austin, Texas. She began making plans to assist in the relief effort before the storm even hit land.
AMANDA: “I saw it on the news the night before it happened. I contacted my Red Cross chapter
and they called me the next Monday morning. I packed my bags got on a plane that day.
I had to get on a plane that day.”
HOST: With waters chest-deep in the Houston area, a mass evacuation began. Many of those who had to leave were sent west to Austin, Texas, over two and one half hours away. The one-halfing to do was get organized.
AMANDA: “For the first three days, it was kind of chaotic as everyone teamed up together. At first, the shelter was going to be at the Austin Convention center but the Red Cross ended up moving it to mega shelter at a church outside of Austin. We had about 3,500 people that came to that shelter. All of the people came on charter buses, aeorbuses, those buses people travel long distance on. They came ten at a time. It was ….. was not organized but we made it the best we could to keep it organized.”
“I met a great group of people focused on the same thing I was focusing on – helping people get resources. The very first day and second day I was there I was alone but eventually I met a great group of people from around the world. One actually came out from Hawaii. We worked in the mega shelter with disaster relief, mass care, helping them with everyday needs. The volunteers were a great group of people.”
HOST: Hosp says city employees in Austin, along with the Red Cross and other relief agencies began setting up a temporary home for the hurricane victims in the new facility.
AMANDA: “It was a brand new warehouse, brand now. We staked it out. They had to be federal …. I’m sorry… The fire department of Austin, the police officers of Austin volunteered to put the cots out. They laid the numbers down on each cot bed. They had cell phone chargers that had 20 cords so people could plug their phones in, like they have at the airports.
“Um … There was a kids section with board games where one of the Red Cross volunteers that I met worked. She was involved through Hasbro Toys. They donated about two million dollars’ worth of toys, all brand new. So there was a kids section. We had a section outside with air conditioning and tents where the animals would be. Only service animals were allowed inside the shelter.”
HOST: One of the many jobs was preparing meals for those displaced by the storm.
AMANDA: “There was different. Actually, there was not just Red Cross there …were more groups than just the American Red Cross there. FEMA … we all kind of pitched in. One morning, FEMA would prepare a meal for the people during the day. Then, in the evening, we would have something set up for them hot and ready.”
HOST: Amanda Hosp was to see many examples of human beings doing their best to survive the hurricane’s onslaught. She says one of her most vivid memories took place before the buses filled with people even started to arrive.
AMANDA: “I met two homeless guys who lived on the streets in downtown Austin. They were really nice gentlemen. One of them asked if I could get them a pair of socks. You know, they didn’t ask me for money. They were willing to help volunteer, even though they were homeless. Sure enough, I was actually able to find a pair of socks for this guy. That memory stands out to me. I was able to help somebody out there in Austin.”
HOST: For this student at Missouri Southern, the premiere goal was to help people in a time of need.
AMANDA: “I’ve always loved traveling and meeting new people. What kind of encouraged me to want to help out is helping people because I know when you’re in an unfamiliar place it can be scary. So putting myself at their level and just being there to help them at the tough time of not having a home or what not. I just really enjoy helping people and giving them the resources that they need.
“Um …. I feel my duty down there was to help people and give them resources and comfort. I feel like it gave me more of an understanding of disasters – how it is for people to lose their homes and it helped me to know what they’re going through emotionally. I feel it gave me a better idea of why I want to do Social Work. I feel this experience kind of helps me fulfill the degree I am going to school for.”
HOST: Hosp says giving is the key.
AMANDA: “The number one thing I do want to do. I want to give people resources. I’m a pretty resourceful people myself and I feel llike my resource is helping people in that aspect and helping them mentally or emotionally. That is what I do want to do. I want to help people.”
HOST: Several groups on campus have made efforts to help the victims of the devastating hurricanes this year. Student groups are making efforts. The Teacher Education department has officially adopted Cypress Creek High School in the flooded Houston area.
Darren Fullerton, vice president for student affairs, says MSSU is offering its assistance to Southern students.
MR. FULLERTON: “At this point, we are directing efforts toward Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We did an initial outreach to our students in South Texas that were impacted by Harvey and
conducted some outreach to those individuals first and then a short time after that Irma hit not only Florida but the Caribbean …. And we had approximately 40 students from various areas in the Caribbean…. And the British Virgin Islands so we’re really working with students from both of those hurricanes.”
HOST: Fullerton says the university is trying to centralize the relief effort through the Missouri Southern Foundation.
MR. FULLERTON:“We’ve had a lot of outreach on behalf of individuals, someone who has a personal connection. Those are time-consuming and labor intensive. We’re trying to coordinate the university’s efforts. The Foundation has set up a fund that people can donate to. We do have some student groups that are going to actually be doing some actually on campus solicitations for cash. That cash will also go in the University’s central fund through the Foundation and will be designated to the Red Cross and be designated for hurricane relief in Texas, Florida and parts of the Caribbean.”
HOST: Fullerton says the Joplin area, which experienced its own killer tornado in 2011, has a well-deserved reputation for generosity.
MR. FULLERTON:“I think this area has a giving nature and they’re quick to reach out to others in times of need. We see that in personal tragedies or in times of natural disaster like this. So we’re just very thankful and grateful that out students, faculty staff that have that giving and caring attitude.”
HOST: The MSSU vice president says Missouri Southern students affected by the storm will get the help they need.
MR. FULLERTON:“We’re trying to help them academically as well as financially. If they’re having trouble with resources because they can’t contact parents or get resources we want them to know they can reach out to us and we’ll do the best to provide services until things stabilize for them.”
HOST: The words of MSSU’s Darren Fullerton, vice president of Student Affairs. “For Missouri Southern State University, I’m Stephen Smith.”