Rebuilding the Gulf Coast
Seventeen students and five staff members from Southwestern will go to three locations on the Texas Gulf Coast March 16-20 as part of the university’s annual Destination: Service program, which is now in its 14th year.
“The purpose of Destination: Service is to provide Southwestern students with opportunities to serve others in a spirit of care, concern, and openness to learning, in a context that is different from that of Southwestern and of central Texas,” said Aaron Rohre, interim director of religious life and coordinator of the program. “The great need resulting from the destruction and rebuilding efforts in Houston and other Gulf Coast cities was a great opportunity to retool the program for this year.”
Rohre noted the Houston-Galveston area has been a steady supporter of Southwestern, whether from student enrollment or organizational, foundational and alumni giving. “This area has given so much to Southwestern to make it the place it is for students, that this is a great opportunity for us to give back in some tangible way,” he said.
Destination: Service participants this year will do social services outreach with Goodwill Industries of Houston, as well as hurricane relief in Galveston and Orange.
Rohre has been working with 1981 Southwestern graduate Steve Lufburrow to organize Destination: Service at the Goodwill location in Houston. Lufburrow serves as president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of Houston and is also executive director of the Goodwill Industries of Houston Foundation.
“This trip will teach students how and why Goodwill operates as a social justice organization in its business practices, as well as provide service opportunities,” Rohre said. “Students will work alongside employees, do the daily tasks of Goodwill, and enable the continued success of this great non-profit organization.”
Maria Kruger, who works in Southwestern’s Career Services office, will be the staff leader for the group working with Goodwill. This is her fifth Destination: Service trip. “Goodwill Industries has been around for a very long time and is one of the leaders in empowering people to be successful and building self-worth for individuals and families,” Kruger said. “I support Goodwill locally in Austin so I am excited to be working with them in Houston.”
Junior Vanessa Reynolds is among the students who will be working at Goodwill. She said she is looking forward to learning more about the organization.
“Service is a crucial component of my life because I believe in peace and equality for all,” Reynolds said. “Working with a non-profit organization like Goodwill will give me an opportunity to work with people who have made service not only a part of their work, but their daily lives.”
Sophomore Rebecca De Los Santos also will be working at Goodwill. “These trips are really eye-opening,” De Los Santos said. “I was able to go on the Spring Break service trip last year and my perspective of the needy changed dramatically. There are countless people who are overlooked, ignored and forgotten in our society, and many times these individuals have no one to turn to. The Goodwill trip, like the other Destination: Service trips, offers a way to go and give hope, as well as material goods, to people.”
In Galveston, students will work with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to help rebuild and renovate hurricane-damaged homes. “Hurricane Ike was the third-most destructive hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States,” Rohre said. “The overwhelming and massive outpouring of aid and support seen in Galveston County in the first months after the hurricane brought the city to where it is today: gutted and empty, waiting for permits and insurance money, waiting to be home again.”
In Orange, which is located near the Louisiana border, students will do hurricane relief work with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). In the past five years, Orange has been affected by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, and has accumulated substantial damage. Southwestern volunteers will work in conjunction with volunteers from First United Methodist Church of Georgetown to rebuild homes and clean up yard debris and trash.