The small town of Luling, Texas is known to locals as “the watermelon capital of the world.” A week and a half ago, it was also under four feet of rain as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
That’s why 1989 EKU graduate David Silver will be spending up to six months in the town’s Salvation Army shelter, clothing and housing the hundreds of residents who lost everything in the floods. Since August 25, he and a crew of five other volunteers have worked 12-hour shifts, providing access to food and housing as many as 30 people daily.
Silver earned his master’s degree in educational administration in 1989 and spent two years working for EKU’s Center for Economic Development. His membership in the Bluegrass chapter of the Salvation Army – based in Lexington – gave him the connections to help with Harvey relief directly.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” Silver said. “They may need to send me to Houston or Austin soon, but for now I’m doing everything I can to help.”
Silver is one of the contributors to the Hurricane Harvey relief with ties to EKU. Friday’s water donation drive encouraged members of the EKU community to bring sealed gallons or cases of water to the Dizney Building garage from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Other connections to the crisis have been disclosed after rumors were circulated that several EKU student veterans would be deployed to Texas to help with the relief effort. One of these students, who wishes to not be identified, confirmed that he and 7 to 10 other students face potential deployment to Houston and surrounding areas. The student is a member of the Kentucky National Guard, in a division under the command of Sgt. Hobbes Ravenna.
“I want to do what I can, but I kind of hope I’m not activated,” the second-semester freshman said. “I’m already behind a semester.”
The student is not alone in being hesitant to leave. He and other student veterans could spend 40 to 60 days in the area, an idea he said many student veterans are excited for, “but some aren’t.” The student reported that if he were activated, he would be deployed within one to two weeks.
Others in the EKU community have volunteered to help with relief. One such example is Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a service fraternity that’s conducted philanthropy on campus since 2006. The fraternity is holding a bake sale on October 4 with proceeds going towards accredited organizations who will distribute the funds to areas needing relief.
“We had to schedule it all the way into October,” said Katherine Davis, APO parliamentarian, junior studying deaf education and Spanish. “But the recovery effort is something that will take months.”
The fundraiser will not only function as a sale, but as a competition. For $10, students can put their own cakes in the running to be judged. Participants can become judges or decorate and ice cookies for an undetermined fee. APO president Rachel Lachut said the event will probably take place at Powell corner, but the chapter is still awaiting confirmation from the department of Student Life. She said she also hopes to bring the organization’s members together, not just school-wide, but state-wide.
“We want to collaborate with chapters from all over the state to find ways to contribute – at KSU, UK, Louisville, Centre College, Moorehead, NKU, and Bellarmine,” Lachut said.
The EKU chapter released a statement in a Facebook group for chapters around the state, calling for a combined effort to contribute to the relief fund.
The matter is especially personal to Davis, she said. 27 miles away from Houston in the city of Nassau Bay, Texas, her second cousin and family have experienced their own crisis. When the flood hit, Davis said her cousin stayed behind to help survivors make it to safety while his wife and kids retreated to a relative’s house out of town. Her cousin’s wife described the scene in a Facebook post on August 27.
In the post, she described her husband coming back to two feet of flooding in the lower level of her house and in her husband’s car. A strong current surrounded the house and at a nearby curb, the water stood at seven feet deep. Part of their fence was also destroyed, and an additional 25 inches of rain were to be expected over the next several days. Luckily, no fatalities had been recorded in Nassau Bay.
This scene has been all too common in Luling, but Silver said conditions have improved since his arrival. Flooding has decreased to where Luling’s inhabitants can drive on most of the town’s main highways.
“People just can’t do enough here,” Silver said of Luling’s citizens.
The people of Luling have indeed shown generosity. Silver said he recalled a young man walking into the shelter with no spare changes of clothes. Within hours, a woman brought him an entire bag full that she had gathered from people around the community. Wanting to help pass the time, the local librarian brought in board games for people in the shelter to play.
Six to eight other members of Silver’s chapter are in Texas to provide relief. The Bluegrass chapter is also working with the Lexington Legends for fundraising efforts.
Photo courtesy of Associated Press