Wrighton, Wash. U. community respond to destruction caused in Houston by hurricane

Aiden Blinn | Contributing Reporter

Chancellor Mark Wrighton reflected on the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in an email sent to the Washington University community Aug. 29, and the community has responded by reaching out to those impacted by the hurricane’s havoc.

After making its first landfall in eastern Texas Aug. 26, Hurricane Harvey flooded thousands of homes and left tens of thousands homeless. The hurricane engulfed Houston and much of southeastern Texas. Now, preliminary reports suggest that Harvey is one of the costliest natural disasters in American history.

Piles of moldy debris that have been thrown out block the street view of homes in the Kashmere Gardens of Houston, Texas, on Sept. 3, 2017.Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Piles of moldy debris that have been thrown out block the street view of homes in the Kashmere Gardens of Houston, Texas, on Sept. 3, 2017.

In his email, Wrighton lamented the destruction in Texas while encouraging the community to get involved in relief efforts, and linking to the websites of a Hurricane Harvey relief fund and the American Red Cross.

“Many of our current students and alumni come from the affected areas; others of us know people who have been impacted or are at risk,” Wrighton wrote. “They, their families, friends and loved ones are going through a horribly difficult ordeal. Our thoughts remain with them.”

Wrighton also addressed the University community’s obligation to help those in need, referring specifically to the ideals upon which the Washington University community was first established.

“Here at Washington University, our community is built on the foundation of care and support we extend to each other and to others, particularly in times of crisis. This is one of those times and I know many of you are looking for ways to lend a helping hand,” Wrighton wrote.

Many members of the University community, such as Rabbi Hershey Novack, co-director of Chabad at Washington University, have reached out to victims of the hurricane to offer assistance.

“We recognize that there are members of the Wash. U. community who are from the affected areas, so we’ve contacted students, alumni and their families who were in the area to offer support and to find out how we might be able to help from here,” Novack said.

According to Novack, Chabad has worked in tandem with Washington University students in its charitable efforts.

“We managed to connect Wash. U. alumni with current students who organized supporting fundraisers for them in order to help them—or the people around them—have access to the things that they need during this challenging time,” Novack said.

In particular, Novack corresponded with the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity to assist one of its alumni, Zachary Hiller. Perry Gordon, president of the fraternity, raised money for Hiller through an online campaign and matched the campaign’s proceeds with Zeta Beta Tau’s funds.

“We ended up raising 500 dollars, and we matched the 500 dollars, so we ended up sending down 1,000 dollars to the cause—to Zach Hiller,” Gordon said.

Gordon noted that Hiller kept in touch with the fraternity, as he made use of the donation to purchase essentials both for himself and for those in his community. Additionally, Gordon complimented Hiller’s community for its unity and cooperation in repairing the damage caused by Harvey.

“He sent pictures to us of him using the money [and] going to Home Depot and buying rigs and buying things for houses,” Gordon said. “It was really remarkable how they really came together and they used their funds—the funds we sent them—to help put this together.”