One hundred and eighty billion. That number is the current estimated cost of the total damages from Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Houston, Texas. When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston last week, people soon realized how dire the situation was and that the people of Houston, Texas needed immediate help. The University of Southern Mississippi is no stranger to hurricane damage, or to lending a helping hand to people in need- as seen when they graciously opened the gates of campus to the faculty and students of William Carey University after a tornado ripped through their campus earlier in the spring of this year.
Hurricane Harvey may not have directly hit Mississippi, but Mississippi did receive tailwinds of it. After Harvey made landfall in Texas, tornados began swarming around USM’s Hattiesburg campus on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, while USM’s Gulf Park campus was also dealing with Hurricane Harvey’s tailwind wrath. After dealing with the damage Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005, the Gulf Park campus understood how in dire need of help Houston, Texas was. USM’s Gulf Park campus partnered with the city of Long Beach, Mississippi to collect donations for the Harvey relief fund. So far, they have collected food, water, baby items and cleaning supplies and will continue to collect items for the next few weeks.
Many of USM’s departments in Hattiesburg also decided to collect supplies for donations to the Harvey relief. One of the several departments to collect donations was the Physical Plant. The Physical Plant is a department that’s mission is “to construct, enhance and maintain the physical environment of The University of Southern Mississippi in a manner that is conducive to the education, research, service and safety of our community.” They serve Southern Miss as its facilities maintenance arm. After receiving so much help after the tornado struck Hattiesburg, “we just wanted to pay-it-forward, so to speak, and help others in their time of need,” Michelle Shinall, Assistant Director of Marketing & Campus Relations, said in an interview. With the help of social media and mass emails, they were able to recruit the help of students, faculty, staff, and alumni members to help with their donations. Items donated by the Physical Plant included non-perishable food items, pet food, baby items, cleaning supplies, and so much more. They were able to fill the back of a large pickup truck with their donations.