The effects of recent hurricanes have hit over 50 countries and devastated some areas, including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida and Houston, Texas. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria have left entire communities in desperation to reform their lives.
With millions of homes losing power creating a crisis for daily survival, many people even outside the paths of these hurricanes are affected. The effects continue to reach Northeast Ohio, where students, teachers, and members of the Gilmour community are doing as much as they can to help the victims that were left with nothing as a result of these hurricanes.
Many of Gilmour’s resident students have been directly affected by at least one of these hurricanes. Jake Howse (‘21), although born in Philadelphia, moved to Houston when he was four. His family continues to live in Houston. Even though his family was not drastically affected, he makes sure to call his parents every night to check up on them. Some of his friends were not as fortunate. He said, “One of my friend’s houses got flooded four feet deep. She was beside herself. Another one of my friends actually lost her whole house due to Harvey. It has affected people differently.”
Howse’s parents continue to help out those people who were dramatically affected by Hurricane Harvey, by carrying garbage out of family friends’ houses, and even donating Howse’s old hockey gear to their kids who lost theirs in the floods, because any help is needed for these victims. Even bigger efforts are being made in Texas, with the JJ Watt foundation, which passed $30 million in fundraising on September 9, 2017, and more than $50 million donated to the local fund set up by the mayor of Houston, TX.
Gilmour’s Service Department has connected with the Holy Cross schools and their communities affected by these hurricanes. Ms. Erin Thompson, a chair member of the Service Department and an Instructor in Religion at the Upper School, explained that the Holy Cross institutions being helped by the Gilmour community are located in Florida, Haiti, and an organization in Austin (although not affected, they are providing aid).
Thompson said, “I think when you see such destruction and struggle, it’s hard not to respond. It’s very difficult to turn a blind eye to the people who have lost everything. Whether I know these people or not, I think of them as family. I am also preaching the mission statement in all my freshman classes and I think this is not only an opportunity for me to live that out, but to help them live it out as well.”
When Ms. Kelly Borally (‘90) emailed Ms. Kathleen Kenny, Head of School, asking for aid for her school in Houston (Nottingham Elementary), the Service Department took action. Thompson said, “A goal was set for the collection of 50 gift cards in 24 hours, which we did meet in large thanks to Mr. Greenfield. The second goal was to have participation from 50% of the study body, which we are still trying to achieve. The third goal was to average $50 per student in donations, which would help us reach an average of around $30,000, all going to families trying to rebuild their lives. The 50s were inspired by Father John’s 50th jubilee.”
Immediately after the first hurricane, a group of students brainstormed ideas and reached out to Kenny for help. She said, “After Harvey, I contacted Ms. [Whitney] Daly [Department Chair of Religious Studies] because we had a couple of kids write to me and say they wanted to do a clothing drive. I’d seen enough of the news where residents said they had enough ‘stuff’, and not to send any more because the transport of these items would be too complicated; what they were asking for was money. The same day, the ‘90 alum Kelly Borally contacted me and told me that her school was completely flooded.”
This is what inspired the gift card fund, and it was designed for victims to make significant repairs to their homes that were much needed. Kenny felt even more obligated to help those who were affected by Hurricane Irma, due to the fact that Florida is closer to home through extended families of the Gilmour family who own homes in parts of Florida that were affected.
Kenny stated, “Especially after natural disasters like this, my mother would remind me that it could be us (Kenny or her siblings). The Holy Cross Mission fosters us to reach out to those that are struggling and suffering. It’ almost like an intuitive response that the kids have [at Gilmour] when it comes to helping others.”
Kenny is working to help a family with two children who lost their home and school in Puerto Rico. The family is going to try to get out of Puerto Rico and come to Ohio. Kenny has offered to provide an education for them while they rebuild their lives.
Kenny said, “There’s only so much you can do. We can pray for them, hold them in our hearts, but I do think the financial reality of this destruction is in the billions. We can only make a small dent, but it’s better than not doing anything.”
Gilmour continues to try and support those who lost even the littlest bit. From the Head of School to the students, everyone is encouraged to help. Many of the goals set by Gilmour’s Service Department have recently been met, and money will still continue to be raised towards assisting those who lost almost everything because of these natural disasters.