Skip to main content

WVU mobilizes hurricane aid efforts for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico

No thumbnail image for this story
After major flooding in the Mountain State last year, the WVU community mobilized relief efforts for hurricane-affected areas in Puerto Rico.
Download full-size

In the chaotic days following Hurricane Maria, researchers at one of the most famous scientific instruments in the world used a simple, short-wave radio to communicate.

Reports from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico said that the staff was safe, but the telescope had sustained damage from the 150 mile-per-hour winds, and the surrounding community was devastated by wind damage and flooding.

Like areas hit by Hurricane Harvey and Irma, Puerto Rico and its surrounding areas are now in urgent need of assistance and will be faced with the difficult task of rebuilding for years to come.

The West Virginia University community, having witnessed devastating flooding in the state more than a year ago, has mobilized efforts to provide support and resources for those now working to repair the damage in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

Humanitarian aid for Puerto Rico

In partnership with the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, called NANOGrav, and working with the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, WVU has launched a fundraising campaign to provide aid to the observatory staff and surrounding community at

WVU and NANOGrav are long-time partners with Arecibo Observatory. Scientists from both institutions have spent time working at the telescope and have built close relationships with people in the surrounding communities. 

Many of Arecibo’s 100 employees have lost their homes and are sheltering at the observatory, which is serving as a FEMA emergency center.

However, the situation in Puerto Rico remains critical. The area has been ravaged, and residents are desperate for basic needs such as food, water, diesel fuel and medical supplies. Power and utilities are not expected to be available for months and the observatory’s supplies are limited.

Campus response

In the aftermath of the earliest hurricanes, the Office of Campus and Community Life contacted students from affected areas, and the Mountaineer Parents Club contacted parents to offer campus counseling, academic support, financial aid counseling, etc.

The Center for Service and Learning assisted the WVU men’s soccer team with a fundraiser at the September 1 home opener to raise money for Houston hurricane relief efforts. For each of the 651 fans in attendance, Coach Marlon LeBlanc donated $1, which was also matched by the Mountaineer Maniacs. In addition, VISTA members from the VISTA Collaborative at WVU collected donations from fans at the game on behalf of the Greater Houston United Way.

The WVU Alumni Association regularly communicated with chapters in the hurricanes’ paths to provide support. When Hurricane Harvey hit, members of the Lone Star-Houston Alumni Chapter kept in constant communication with their members to assess safety and damages.

They contacted approximately 250 members before and during the storm through as many channels as possible to ensure they were safe or help with evacuation. Following the storm, they sent messages to more than 1,350 email addresses.

The chapter also deployed volunteers for relief efforts, collected supplies and set up meal delivery plans for those who had been displaced.

Additionally, Heather Dishman, the Houston chapter lead, shared best practices with Florida chapters as they prepared for Hurricane Irma.

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences alumna and Houston native Mollie Kish lost nearly everything in the subsequent flooding. Despite that, she chose to spend the following days and weeks aboard a small boat transporting neighbors to safe ground, and rescued more than 50 people, pets and wildlife.

To support Kish’s efforts, alumni from the Department of Geology and Geography have been collecting donations to support her during her displacement.

Students from the McNair Scholars Program and the Student Government Association collected more than $330 in hurricane relief donations after three days of fundraising in the Mountainlair.

Students from the Honors College Living and Learning Community in Lincoln Hall collected donations during the WVU-Virginia Tech football watch party, and students in Honors Hall held a Hotcakes for Harvey Relief fundraiser. The Honors Student Association is also planning additional fundraising events for hurricane relief.

The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Staff Advisory Committee initiated a fundraiser in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, raising more than $500 for Harvey-affected students at Houston Community College to buy textbooks and school supplies.

After Hurricane Irma, the Statler Staff Advisory Committee began another relief effort that is continuing in support of both Irma and Maria under the Dollars for Disaster initiative.

The committee will be collecting donations during their next monthly hot dog sale on October 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Engineering Sciences Building.

The College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences donated multiple boxes of clothing to relief efforts in Puerto Rico with shipping costs funded by the college’s faculty, staff and family members. The efforts were also made possible with the assistance of the Book Exchange and Qdoba.

At the October 8 WVU women’s soccer game, students from the CPASS Athletic Coaching Education program held a pie toss to raise funds to benefit the Salvation Army Hurricane Relief fund. The students also sold pizza to raise funds for the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund at the WVU Diversity Cup.

As hurricane recovery and rebuilding continues in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, groups across campus are planning different ways they can continue to support hurricane-affected communities.

WVU students will be participating in Tent City from Oct. 10-13 in preparation for Homecoming football weekend, and will be encouraged to raise funds for the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief.



CONTACT: University Relations/Communications

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.