This weekend, twenty-six Southwestern Adventist University students, faculty, staff, and Lillian Fire Chief Keith Fleming spent several days at The Oaks Adventist Christian School, located in Cypress, just outside of Houston. The team worked to repair damage from Hurricane Harvey. As the work bee progressed, the number of volunteers grew close to 300, including locals and many Southwestern Adventist University alumni.
For many students, the long weekend originally held far different plans. But when Hurricane Harvey slammed into the southern coast of Texas, on August 25, 2017, leaving a path of destruction through Galveston, Corpus Christi, Rockport, Houston, and surrounding areas, priorities changed quickly. Teaching and providing service to mankind is one of the main tenants of Southwestern’s tagline, Knowledge, Faith, Service. In keeping with the spirit of service that pervades the campus, students immediately started looking for ways to help.
“Life can change your plans drastically sometimes,” says Tanya, senior communication major. “I had originally planned a weekend of getting ahead on my classes and relaxing, but the hurricane hit and we needed to help however we could. I’m tearing out sheetrock instead of doing homework.”
Southwestern Adventist University has alumni, friends, and family of current students in the impacted area. “Being here at school (in Keene) watching everyone back home lose everything just broke my heart,” shares Kimberly Torres, sophomore nursing major and Victoria, Texas resident. In response, Kimberly immediately contacted all her friends on campus to help by gathering needed supplies. She soon had a pile so large that she had to ask for help in getting it all to her hometown.
Faculty, staff, and students continue to organize themselves, aligning with other organizations for maximum impact. Southwestern’s Enactus team contacted the local Harvest House and quickly organized to help gather a list of donations needed as Harvest House prepares to help evacuees relocating to Johnson County. The University also quickly partnered with Adventist Community Services to raise funds for Disaster Relief Kits and organize students to assemble the kits. Through the Spiritual Life and Development Office, the campus has responded to other requests for help, such as loading trucks bound for Houston with supplies, volunteering at other Johnson County organizations, and supporting efforts at area churches.
“We’ve been witness to such a spirit of camaraderie,” says Dr. Ken Shaw, Southwestern Adventist University president. “We’re working on these projects, and we’ve got community members jumping in, and our own alumni coming to help. It is wonderful to see our legacy of service in action.”
Southwestern continues to communicate with the local Johnson County disaster relief chapter, Adventist Community Services, shelters in the DFW area, and our local conferences and Southwestern Union officials to be available to give assistance when possible as soon as opportunities arise.
For more information on how to help raise funds for disaster relief kits, visit communityservices.org.