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Outpouring of Support for Hurricane Harvey School Supply Drive Led by UHCOP APhA-ASP Chapter Brings $40K in Relief to 13 Schools

What started as the humble idea of two UH College of Pharmacy students to enlist fellow students to collect classroom supplies for schools in Rockport, Texas — the focus of Hurricane Harvey's initial landfall on Aug. 25 — soon blossomed into a nationwide campaign with donations arriving from Hawaii to Rhode Island.

The drive raised more than $40,000 in supplies for 13 Texas Gulf Coast and Houston-area schools and benefited 150 teachers and more than 5,100 students.

Hannah Chan and Kaycie Rathburn, the president- and president-elect respectively of the UHCOP Chapter of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists, said they were spurred into action while watching the devastation on TV and waiting for the UH campus to reopen during the weeklong shutdown due to widespread, record flooding.

The pair recruited fellow UHCOP students as well as students at UH College of Optometry and the Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to join in the effort.

"I was communicating with the APhA headquarters on some other issues, and they asked how we were doing because they'd seen it on the national news," Chan said. "I told them about the drive and sent them the flier we'd created that listed the types of items we were collecting and how to get them to us. It wasn't long before it was being shared all over social media, and our emails and phones starting blowing up with people wanting to help."

Among those responding to the college were fellow APhA-ASP chapters and colleges of pharmacy, non-pharmacy higher education institutions, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, places of worship, alumni, and countless families and individuals. Many of the "care packages" also included words of support and encouragement. Several other UHCOP student organizations even held fundraisers or opened up their own coffers to support the initiative.

UH alumnus-founded BB's Cafe in Houston set up donation boxes and changed its marquee signs at all of its locations asking for donations; a teacher supply store offered significant discounts to the organizers to purchase classroom furnishings and other items; and a storage facility operator provided an empty unit to store items.

"It got to the point where the living room at my house and at my parents's house were unusable, and there were boxes lined up in the hallways of my parents' house," Rathburn said.

The bulk of the donations went to Rockport and Aransas Pass school districts, which were hardest hit by Harvey, but schools impacted by the subsequent flooding across Greater Houston also were able to restock several classrooms thanks to the drive.

"Even a couple of weeks after school restarted, we were still having people checking in on us to see how we were doing," Chan said. "The amount of love and support we received from people all over the nation has been really overwhelming, in a good way. It just shows you that no matter the distance people took the time to help out to others in need."