Aggies demonstrated selfless service during last week’s historic winter storm as volunteers turned out to help at the temporary warming center in Reed Arena.
The recent drop in temperatures that began Sunday, Feb. 14 left many Texans without power and running water. However, Texas A&M opened its doors to community members seeking warmth. Early Tuesday morning, calls were made and volunteers were sought to prepare Reed Arena as a warming center for those in need. The community came together to provide food, blankets and more with a donation drive on Friday afternoon. At the heart of the operation was the American Red Cross, organizing everything from the location to the volunteers.
Executive Director of the Heart of Texas chapter of the Red Cross A.J. Renold said the organization partners with emergency management anytime there is a need in the community. Renold said they had been working to organize emergency supplies since they heard the weather was going to be severe.
“We provide manpower and resources, but we were in need of a location for a warming shelter,” Renold said. “After asking around, we found out that our usual facilities were without power as well. We reached out to Texas A&M, and they quickly offered up Reed Arena.”
When they reached the facility, Renold said they began to set up and send out requests for volunteers, food and water.
“It was so great to see how many Aggies showed up to help,” Renold said. “They got there fast, and everyone was very willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.”
According to their records, Renold said over 100 people came to the warming center.
“Reed Arena provided warmth and shelter, but the Red Cross also made sure everyone had blankets, and the Brazos Valley Food Bank provided nonperishable food,” Renold said.
Renold said the volunteers did everything they could with safety precautions in place due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Food was individually wrapped and water was bottled,” Renold said. “We had volunteers screening for COVID[-19], and people were asked to stay in their own area once they were set up. People were just thankful to get away from the cold and be able to call their families to tell them they were alright.”
Economics freshman Burke Bridges said his membership in Fish Aides, a service-based freshman leadership organization, led him to receive word of the events occurring at Reed Arena. Once he heard, Bridges said he immediately volunteered.
“It was such an impactful experience,” Bridges said. “We had Aggies from every walk of life. There were individuals from the Corps of Cadets, girls from [the women’s organization] Philadelphia Sisters and guys from [Beta Upsilon Chi] as well as many former students.”
The people who had the most significant effect on him, Bridges said, were the janitorial staff who stayed late to make sure the facility stayed clean and, more specifically, a man named Kamal who immigrated from Pakistan.
“After traveling the world, Kamal settled here for the second half of his life to attend Mays Business School,” Bridges said. “I asked him, ‘What was it that made you want to give up time to help people? What is it in you that caused you to be here right now?’”
Bridges said Kamal’s answer would change the way he looked at selfless service forever.
“He told me anytime there is a disaster, that’s when someone’s true character is revealed,” Bridges said. “You can either choose to stay in bed, and in this case stay warm, or you can get up and help people. He chose to get up.”