There are always many people working to keep Texas A&M’s campus grounds and residence halls clean. Often, students don’t see all the work they are doing, as they quietly do their jobs behind the scenes.
Doug Eastep, a custodian for the Corps of Cadets dormitories, is one of the many employees that keeps the campus clean, but, as is the case for many of A&M’s support staff, there’s more to his story than meets the eye.
Recently, Eastep has gone through some difficult times, with his mother unexpectedly passing away in December 2019. Not only was Eastep very close with his mother, but he also lived with her. Without her income, he was unable to cover bills and taxes for his household.
Needing help, Eastep turned to his uncle for assistance. Unfortunately, his uncle wasn’t able to provide sufficient support and sold their residence in the process. This left Eastep with only his mother’s car to his name, which is now where he lives.
Ella Foster, Eastep’s assistant supervisor, had heard about the REACH project a short time before he started working with her, and had recently joined the program. Eastep wanted to get involved with the project, so Foster talked with REACH on his behalf.
After she connected him with REACH, Eastep confided in Foster as she talked with him at work.
“He had let me know that he was basically sleeping in his vehicle and parking wherever he could park or wherever he could pick up WiFi, whatever signal he could pick it up from” Foster said.
While Eastep had to drive around quite a bit to ensure his basic needs were met, he also needed to be able to be reached by Foster so he could keep up with his work responsibilities.
This was made especially difficult as Eastep did not have a cell phone.
The REACH Project, which aims to help the “Invisible Aggies” of campus like Eastep, provides necessities for its constituents and assists in other areas of need. One way they help is food distribution, which the Aggie Men’s Club, or “AMC,” has recently begun assisting with this past semester, said Hudson Neuhoff, an industrial distribution junior and AMC service chairman.
“Pretty much we have a weekly meal distribution, so what that looks like is we get packages from Brazos Valley Food Bank, and then those packages have some great produce that a lot of these families have said they typically wouldn’t have,” Neuhoff said. “It can be anywhere from black beans, to potatoes, to cantaloupe, to apples, things like that.”
After talking with Eastep, REACH founder and CEO Max Gerall said he realized Eastep needed more than food, so the REACH Project took things a step further to try and meet his housing needs. The conversation between the two focused on his needs after obtaining an apartment.
“[We told him] we’d work with [him] to find an apartment, but we’d have to get into an apartment, we would pay for it for six months and if we had any extra money, we’d help pay for electricity and stuff each month with you,” Gerall said. “He said that he thinks that will be exactly what he needs to get back on his feet and start changing his life.”
To accomplish this, Gerall started a GoFundMe for Eastep, which quickly exploded on social media, with the campaign currently exceeding $6,000. These funds enabled REACH to begin the process of helping Eastep sign a lease. In addition, REACH met its initial fundraising goal, and extended their campaign to help cover necessary furnishings like a bed, dresser and dishes, while also hoping to pay for another six months of his lease.
You can find more information about Eastep here.
Editor’s Note: At time of publication, Eastep could not be reached for comment.