A&M-led relief effort assists West residents
Published: Monday, May 6, 2013
Updated: Monday, May 6, 2013 01:05
A group of more than 100 Aggies caravanned to West, Texas, on Saturday to shovel debris, load trash bags and be a source of comfort to residents still experiencing the effects of devastation caused by the fertilizer plant explosion.
From a supply drive organized by Aggieland Outfitters to a profit share called “A Night Out in B-CS,” Aggies have sacrificed time and resources to show support for their fellow Texans.
Laura Terrell, senior community health major, participated in Saturday’s service project and said her volunteer group worked in the residential area closest to the plant’s explosion.
“We went from house to house and threw trash bags, insulation and drywall into these ginormous dumpsters,” Terrell said. “We went in one guy’s house and shoveled insulation out so he could make a walkway. His 84-year-old mom was there trying to help.”
In less than a week, a group of around 10 Aggies organized the trip, which included raising money, renting buses and recruiting volunteers.
In addition to providing manual labor, the Aggies’ 337 hours of community service will result in additional financial support for the city’s renovation.
Tyler Stewart, former president of the Memorial Student Center and senior biomedical science major, contributed to the trip’s planning and said the gathering of students on Saturday from every corner of campus would have restored faith in anyone who doubted the Aggie family.
“This was not an interest group, this was a group interested in helping out people who needed it,” Stewart said. “We had so many responses that we had to turn people away. I can’t name a single other university where you can make that happen.”
Concerning West’s greatest needs, Stewart said volunteers are in high demand to help clean up debris, but that moral support is needed just as much.
“I think the one thing that they need that no one talks about is support,” Stewart said. “One of the biggest things about us being there was just our presence. The volunteer coordinator told us, ‘You can’t imagine what this means to our residents, even if you didn’t do anything today. Because we know we’re not alone.’”
“A Night Out In B-CS” involved around 20 area businesses partnering to donate a percentage of profits toward relief efforts.
Addison Porter, senior accounting major and former president of One Army, helped plan the fundraiser and said he enjoyed watching different facets of campus coming together to support one cause.
“For me, after that accident happened in West I wanted to do something, but it’s so hard unless you have collective buy-in from a number of spots on campus,” Porter said. “So when I was approached [about starting the fundraiser], immediately I was on board and I would do anything to do the guys in One Army to help me out as well.”
Porter also had the chance to travel to West with the group of more than 100 Aggies on Saturday.
One of the first groups of Aggie volunteers to travel to West was organized by Aggieland Outfitters, which delivered two 53-foot trailers, two 35-foot trailers, two 24-foot Uhaul trucks, a 20-foot box truck and an RV full of supplies to West, as well as nearly $15,000 in cash donations within 24 hours of the explosion. The majority of supplies delivered were water bottles, clothes and first aid equipment.
Dallas Shipp, director of communications at Aggieland Outfitters, expressed his confidence in Aggieland to rally around West residents at such a difficult time.
“You never want something like that to happen,” Shipp said. “But when it does, I don’t know any other group of people that can mobilize and get organized as quickly as we did here. The day we did the [supply] drive at the mall, the first word that came to my mind was that this was unbelievable. But when you think about it, it’s not. It’s just Aggies doing what they do.”
Shipp took advantage of the text message program that Aggieland Outfitters uses for marketing to gather volunteers. He said that by noon the day after the explosion, about 1,400 people texted in with desire to volunteer.