facebook twitter Linkedin Email

Imelda Impact: LU students join the community recovery effort

In the aftermath of Tropical Depression Imelda groups of Lamar University students self-organized to help with the Southeast Texas recovery effort.

Alpha Tau Omega volunteered after the storm helping clean out houses that were flooded. For three days,
Imelda ATOs
Alpha Tau Omega
several groups of fraternity brothers worked at different locations in Beaumont and Hamshire-Fannett removing furniture, flooring, sheetrock and insulation.

“We just had a large number of brothers concerned about the community following the disaster, so I decided to organize some groups of us to get involved and help however we could,” Jordan Curl, a biology/pre-med major, who estimates the fraternity contributed 80 volunteer hours to the effort. “It was just incredibly rewarding and touching to be able to directly see the impact we were able to have on so many people in just a few hours each day.”

When Britney Sumayah, a mechanical engineering major from the U.S. Virgin Islands and president of the Society of Women Engineers, read on social media that Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum had taken in water, she knew other engineering majors would
Imelda Engineers
Society of Women Engineers
want to volunteer at the museum to get it cleaned up.

“The Spindletop Museum has for multiple years hosted the Discover Engineering event in which Lamar University has had the opportunity to participate in to teach kids about science. So, we felt that we owed the museum for allowing us to participate in an outreach event as amazing as Discover Engineering,” said Sumayah. “Three SWE members volunteered at the museum, and we were able to get most of the water and debris out of the barn display area where we were assigned.”

Sumayah said she and the other volunteers enjoyed learning about the museum while they worked and also seeing the community come together. “It was amazing to see community members of all ages - kids and adults - come out to give some of their time and effort to restore this amazing museum,” said Sumayah.

LU social workers also volunteered at a venue that holds significance to their program, Family Services of Southeast Texas Women and Children’s Shelter, an invaluable resource in Southeast Texas that provides a safe shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. The organization also provides individual and group counseling, case management, legal advocacy and outreach services.

“The shelter has hosted Lamar University Social Work volunteers and interns for more than 20 years to help
Social Workers
Social Work Students
prepare our students for their careers in social work,” said Lori Wright. “When they put out the call for volunteers, there was never a question that we would be there to help.”

A team of 21 social work students, several faculty members and some recent LU graduates all pitched in to clear out apartments and the grounds of furniture, clothing, toys and personal items that were affected by flood waters.

The residents of the shelter were evacuated and moved to other cities; however, they left with nothing because Imelda washed away everything they owned.

“There are no words to describe the feelings our students experienced, knowing that most of the residents would be returning to the shelter with no personal items there waiting to be picked up,” said Wright.

The social work program requires a 50-hour volunteer component in order to graduate. Wright says many graduate with volunteer hours far exceeding that number. “We like to say in our program that ‘social workers suit up and show up,’ especially in times of need,” said Wright. “Social work is a “work of heart,” and that shines through each and every one of our students, especially in situations like Imelda.”

A spirit of caring called the Lamar University nursing students to join the effort. A crew of more than 30 worked in seven different homes in the Hamshire-Fannett area; they also cooked food at a church and served meals.

Imelda Nursing
Nursing Students
“We wanted to make a difference and help people in need,” said Christine Johnson, a senior nursing student. “Part of the Lamar University Joanne Gay Dishman School of Nursing's motto is ‘a spirit of caring...,’ and we definitely saw that during this time of need.  So many families misplaced and distraught from this tragic, unexpected storm, and many rose to the challenge of something they have never done before.  We as future nurses truly care about the well-being of the Southeast Texas community.”

Nursing students of all levels participated in the cleanup effort. They bonded as a group of LU students and connected with the families they helped. 

“Most of the memories with our families [we helped] were pretty serious, but in the end, when we were leaving during one of our days, we had a personal interaction,” said Eddie Valencia, senior nursing student and class president. “We told them that it was time to go, and we would be finishing up soon. The family came over and hugged us all and thanked us for helping them in this time of need. I felt so empowered and so proud of our nursing school; we banded together and made a difference in someone's life! In our last embrace with the families affected, we were all teary-eyed with big smiles on our faces as we parted ways, knowing we had made a small difference in their lives.”