“Some areas appeared as a normal Saturday preparing for the opening of football season, but other streets had mounds of furniture, drywall, flooring and other household items in front of each house.”
The speaker was Samford Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Phil Kimrey reporting on what he discovered in Houston, Texas, last weekend in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“People were doing what they could to clean out and dry out and wait for the next steps,” Kimrey said.
What started as an effort to reunite or help stranded families turned into a mission of love and support. Kimrey and other members of Samford’s student affairs team drove three SUVs loaded with supplies to Houston to help several Samford families that were hit hard by the storm. Also in the vehicles were parents of students who had been unable to return home from move-in days at Samford when their airline tickets were canceled.
The Samford group returned one of the parents, Donna Anton, to her home, which had 12 inches of water in it at one point.
“We watched some videos of the rising flood waters that covered their floors, ruined their cars and made their front yard look like a lake,” said Kimrey.
The Samford group then worked with a Houston school to distribute supplies to several Samford families and others with extensive flooding.
“Stefanie and Shawn Girven took their supplies home in a canoe,” according to Susan Doyle, Samford’s director of parent programs.
“We truly appreciate all your love and support,” Girven said in a Facebook message. “We truly are blessed to be part of the Samford family.”
“Some of these families have lost most everything to be considered a possession,” said Kimrey. “They each spoke of how much Samford means to them and they know their children are at home.”
“At Samford, the family connection is strong, and it is important that we take care of our families,” Doyle added. “When we discovered that some of our families were stranded in Birmingham and separated from other family members in Texas, Dr. Kimrey helped us to think about ways to help reunite these families.”
University officials also provided special attention to students from the affected areas.
One of the passengers was Samford senior Hailey O’Neal, who was able to spend a few hours with her family as part of the trip.
In a Facebook message, her mom Dana said, “I have had a very homesick girl the past few days, wanting to be here to help those she loves. I just got a call this morning that Samford University is on their way… bringing help and relief for three flooded families. Along with their precious cargo is my girl. That is going above and beyond.”
Tina Davis’ daughter, Maddie, also is a senior. “They have contacted us and are bringing us supplies. Not only that, they checked on my girl. We are so blessed that she is at Samford University!”
In addition to Kimrey and Doyle and their spouses, the team included Garry Atkins, assistant vice president for student affairs; Wayne Pittman, director of public safety and emergency management; and Texas-based admissions representative Sheri Heasley and her husband.
Kimrey said the student affairs team will determine more ways to help these and other families in the days ahead.
On campus, Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education, led by faculty member David Finn, has led a campus-wide project to collect diapers to be shipped to flooded areas. Finn has led similar projects in the past.
“I know there is a particular need for diapers (young children and adults),” Finn said. “All of us want to do something and the disaster has not yet reached its peak and I know all of us are compelled to do something. It will strengthen our resolve to help and galvanize our sense of community.”
Diapers are being collected through Sept. 8 at Orlean Beeson Hall, and Finn has arranged with a local UPS store to ship what is collected.