Ohio Wesleyan students spent a week in Houston helping repair a home damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. They also learned about issues impacting disaster restoration. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Mickens)

Spring Break Service

Ohio Wesleyan Students Help Restore Hurricane-Damage Home in Houston

By Cole Hatcher

Graham Steed ’23

Name: Graham Steed ’23
Hometown: Marion, OH
Major: Environmental Studies
OWU Connection Experience: Spring Break Service Team

During their weeklong spring break, 10 Ohio Wesleyan students traveled to Houston, Texas, to work with SBP, a nonprofit co-founded by an OWU alumnus Zack Rosenburg ’95 to assist with hurricane recovery efforts. The group spent the week helping to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, exploring issues of community building, and learning more about national and global responsibility for disaster restoration.

Graham Steed ’23, student logistics leader, shared reflections on behalf of the group, which also included Faith Deschamps ’24, student reflections leader, and Meg Edwards ’22, Hannah Green ’24, Brooke Hall ’23, Ava Hurd ’23, Ben Neher ’25, Millie Rocco ’23, Deshawn Rode ’24, and Myles Steed ’23. The students traveled with faculty-staff advisers Newton Kimberly ’13, career catalyst for the OWU Career Connection, and Christopher Mickens, assistant director of Public Safety. 

An Inspiring Opportunity

“The story of SBP’s establishment spoke to me and made me want to help in any way I could,” Steed said, explaining that he was inspired by learning that Bishop alumnus Rosenburg founded SBP following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“He was devastated by the lack of assistance residents of New Orleans received following the natural disaster and wanted to make a difference. He left his position in a law office and established SBP in March 2006. Since then, this organization has helped hundreds across the United States and dependent territories regain their homes following natural disasters.”

My Favorite Moment

“My favorite moment during our trip was putting in the last floor piece at our worksite. Not only did this moment display what great progress our team had made on the property during the week, but also that single floorboard allows the resident, Ms. Duncan, to move in two weeks earlier than planned. I was so proud of my team!”

Lessons Learned

“From this trip, I learned two things. First, I learned that natural disaster relief may be different from what you might expect. Prior to seeing our worksite, I was expecting to find our property and surrounding properties roughed up from a huge storm with all needing major maintenance.

“However, this was not the case. Ms. Duncan’s home was the only house on the street that looked different from everyone else’s. I realized that since the natural disaster happened in 2017, some homes had already been rebuilt or repaired. It made me realize just how long natural disaster relief can take for those with low incomes.

“Second, I learned that service work takes patience. There may be times when work may stall and you may feel useless. However, this should be expected. There is only so much you can do and that is OK!”

Why I Chose to Ohio Wesleyan

“Before I attended Ohio Wesleyan, I went to a large public university … and I didn’t like it. There was no sense of community, it was highly competitive, and I didn’t feel as though it was moving me toward a prosperous career.

“However, my brother was attending OWU and always came home with a smile on his face. He talked of great travel-learning experiences and knowing his professors by their name, and I was impressed.

“After weighing my options, I decided to take the risker route. I left my other university and came here the next following August. Since then, I have enjoyed it very much.”

My Plans After Graduation

“Following graduation, I hope to work as a sustainability coordinator at a corporate or federal level.”