Photo: Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Harvey's impact prompts a call to action in Columbia

As the effects of Hurricane Harvey continue to be detrimental and even fatal for Texans, relief efforts from unaffected areas remain crucial.

USC, a community that just last year housed students from the College of Charleston when a tropical storm swept through their home, is now participating in a citywide initiative to collect donations of supplies for Harvey victims.

"As Gamecocks, we stand with those affected by Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, knowing all too well the hardship of historic flooding," wrote event promotion coordinator Dana D'Haeseleer in a release.

Personal hygiene products, as well as cleaning supplies such as bleach, mops, gloves and rags can be donated at four campus locations on Tuesday, Sep. 5 and Wednesday, Sep. 6. Those locations are the My Carolina Alumni Center, Rice Athletics Center, the School of Law and the Visitor Center.

The impact of the storm in Houston stretches out and is felt by Columbia residents with family and friends in the area. USC American Sign Language professor Andrea Martinez-Johnson shared with The Daily Gamecock how Harvey has affected her family.

"I saw Galveston Island got flooded. I was freaked out and contacted my family," Johnson said. Her father, mother, step-mother and brother are residents of Galveston, Texas. Johnson said that her mother and brother had to evacuate their home but remained safe through the storm.

Johnson works for Richland District One as an instructional assistant for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program and was particularly concerned with Harvey's impact on the deaf community.

"I thank that everyone in my family [is] safe. Unfortunately, some deaf friends or neighbors lost [their] home," Johnson said. She also referenced a Facebook page titled "Deaf Hurricane Harvey Survivors," which currently has over 2,000 members.

Johnson placed importance on USC's effort to help out Harvey victims, and she said that she wishes she could travel to Houston herself to help.

"I want to volunteer to help and might help deaf people and my families. To visit them would be nice," she said.

The Carolina community, specifically Gamecock Athletics, had already kicked off an active display of support for victims.

Gamecock Basketball sent out T-shirts, socks and other apparel to University of Houston student athletes last week.

"Helping our brothers and sisters," men's basketball head coach Frank Martin tweeted last Wednesday accompanied by a photo of Gamecock gear to be sent out.

Behind the athletics department's initiative, which also includes a blood drive, are Leadership and Service Center director Ambra Yarbrough Hiott and fourth-year public health student Julia Learmonth.

Though Learmonth is from Columbia, her family relocated to Houston in May 2017. Under these circumstances, their neighbors and close friends have been and are affected by hurricanes in both South Carolina and Texas.

"Currently, we're trying to do a blood drive in order to be able to send blood to Houston," Learmonth said, adding that a large amount of healthcare facilities in the area have been devastated.

The drive is to be officially held on Tuesday in Russell House, according to Learmonth.

As a major portion of the city was submerged in water, Learmonth stressed that relief efforts must go on for a substantial amount of time.

"It'll take a long time, but I have hope and faith that we'll be able to ... get back to our roots of where Houston is," Learmonth said. "Neighbors are all coming together and trying to rebuild and make the city great again."

Donations from students, faculty, staff or other members of the community can be dropped off at the four campus locations on Tuesday and Wednesday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Additionally, donations will be accepted on Greene Street in front of Russell House on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"The Carolinian Creed calls us to demonstrate concern for others, and we are ready to serve," D'Haeseleer wrote.

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