Ohio Wesleyan students help rebuild homes in New Orleans during a previous Interfaith Service team trip. During spring break 2018, OWU students hope to travel to Texas and Florida – as well as New Orleans – to help with hurricane restoration projects.

Hurricane Help

OWU Mobilizes to Aid Devastated Communities

By Katie Kuckelheim ’19

“I’ve seen photos of friends’ homes – homes I’ve stayed in – completely full of water, completely destroyed,” says Mary Ellen Haskett ’20 of Austin, Texas.

“People from home are reaching out to me, knowing that I’m in Ohio,” she says. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything directly to help the people I cared about.”

The morning after Hurricane Harvey hit Haskett’s home state, she rushed to Ohio Wesleyan University’s Community Service Learning Office to ask, “How can I help?”

Since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma – and now Maria – have hit Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other areas, more and more students have emerged with projects and fundraising ideas to help those affected by the devastating weather.

Haskett is a now an Interfaith Service Team student leader planning a spring break trip to Houston to help rebuild. Another service team will work in Florida, and a third will travel to New Orleans, which is still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Jackson Brownstein ’19 of Houston, Texas, also has found ways to help his home state. He’s raising money and collecting food points for hygiene kits, which will be sent through the American Red Cross.

In addition, the exercise science major and OWU baseball player is collecting sport shirts and shoes from Battling Bishop athletes to donate to teams at the University of Houston. So far, Brownstein has collected 25 shirts and 15 pairs of shoes, and is aiming for more.

“I have a ton of family and friends in Houston in shelters right now, and I’m not able to help out directly, so I’m trying to help raise as much money as possible to help out those in need,” he says.

The Newman Catholic Community on campus is getting involved by raising money and food points to buy items from OWU’s Thomson Store. Those items will be given to Trove Warehouse, a retailer sending supply trucks to Texas once a week.

Sally Leber, director of service learning, also is encouraging individual students and organizations to put together hygiene and cleaning kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which is taking items to shelters.

“The mission of the Community Service Learning Center is to help members of the OWU community find ways to respond that are in keeping with personal interests and concerns,” Leber says. “We emphasize the importance of responding to articulated needs. We also endorse the use of independent charity evaluators (such as Charity Navigator) to ensure that donated funds are spent responsibly and with transparency.”

Each hygiene kit contains $12 worth of items, including a toothbrush, comb, and washcloth. Each cleaning kit contains $65 worth of supplies, includes trash bags, cleaning wipes, and dish soap.

Leber says she also continues to be contacted and to meet with students, including from Florida, as OWU continues to look for ways to support those who need help in the United States and abroad.

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Community Service Learning Office and how to help with hurricane relief efforts at www.owu.edu/service.