UH Aids Cougars, Other Houstonians

September 23, 2008

The University of Houston’s hurricane relief effort may be called Cougars Helping Cougars, but the university has also reached out to residents across the city who are struggling to cope with the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike.

Instead of the scheduled celebration to install Renu Khator as its new president, UH last week turned its attention and services to faculty, staff, students and other Houstonians in need. That effort continues with such programs as the Cougars Helping Cougars Hurricane Ike Relief Fund to collect donations, goods and supplies for employees and students affected by the storm.

Just days after the hurricane’s landfall, UH’s Student Government Association (SGA) helped lead community outreach efforts by partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). SGA provided volunteers at two FEMA Point of Distribution (POD) sites  – one at Robertson Stadium and the other at the Ripley House Neighborhood Center, 4410 Navigation Blvd.

At Robertson Stadium, more than 1,600 students, faculty, staff as well as UH Air Force and Army ROTC cadets and staff volunteered to distribute supplies. Several students from Texas Southern and Texas A&M universities also worked at the relief drive. The volunteers distributed nearly 144,000 liters of bottled water, 480,000 pounds of ice and 65,000 emergency meal kits to 35,000 to 40,000 people Sept. 18 - 19.

Their work drew praise from U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who visited Robertson Stadium to thank volunteers.

“I’m very impressed with the combinations of public and private partnerships, which the University of Houston represents,” Lee said. “This is an academic institution that could have easily turned inward and concentrated only on academics. But for the university to open its doors to be the community –  to be “the neighborhood university” –  is a testament to the leadership that is here, to the university’s new president, Dr. (Renu) Khator, and her cabinet. It’s also a testament to this community.

“I also am proud of the young people here,” Lee said, referring to the student volunteers. “The friendship between the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and Yates (High School), you can see here. That’s something to celebrate.”

Jerry Evans, UH instruc­tional assistant professor of infor­mation and logis­tics technology who also volunteered at the POD at Robertson Stadium, echoed Lee’s sentiments.

“It is a wonderful outreach to our community, and University of Houston students have been terrific,” Evans said. “They have really responded to the call.”

Khator also expressed her gratitude to the campus community.

“I am so proud of the Cougars,” Khator said. “When the hurricane came, the size and intensity were scary. Some of us were fortunate enough to get up on our feet (quickly) and to volunteer to help rebuild the city and the community. This week was supposed to be the investiture. We postponed all the events and dedicated the entire week to help build the city and the community.”

Jonas Chin, senior and a SGA vice president, said he volunteered because “I believe learning and leading come from outside of the classroom. There are many people who need a lot of help and are less fortunate that I am.”

 At the Ripley House, 300 UH students passed out bottled water, bags of ice and emergency meal kits. Sixty UH Air Force and Army ROTC cadets and staff also participated in the relief drive.

“As soon as we heard about this great opportunity to help our local community, our cadets were eager to lend a helping hand,” said Lee Morgan, cadet wing commander of UH AFROTC Detachment 003. 

Tosha Bowles, regional manager of the Bayou and Cullen Oaks apartments, also provided a helping hand to elderly residents of Beall Village, an apartment complex at 4463 North Macgregor Way.

“Beall Village lost electricity, so the residents were unable to charge their cell phones, wheelchairs and scooters,” Bowles said. “Once our electricity was restored on Sept. 14, we ran an extension cord from the Bayou Oaks to the apartment until yesterday, when the power was back up.”

From simple, but meaningful, gestures to more comprehensive recovery projects, the university community also is assisting its own students, faculty and staff who have suffered extensive damages in the storm.

UH has established the Cougars Helping Cougars Hurricane Ike Relief Fund. Faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni are being asked to make tax-deductible charitable donations to assist UH students, employees and their eligible dependents.

Cougars can also donate such items as non-perishable food, clothes, textbooks and other books, toiletries, school supplies, toys, portable entertainment systems, television, stereos, CDs, videos, DVDs and gift cards for retail stores to the fund. Donation centers are at the University Center Underground, Room 52, and the Lamar Fleming Jr. Building, rooms 136 and 138. The centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Volunteers from the Student Alumni Connection and SGA, as well as faculty, staff and students, are staffing the centers. To volunteer, contact Simon Bott, director of undergraduate affairs and advising in chemistry, at sbott@uh.edu or at 713-743-7546.

To help the campus community deal with the emotional impact of the hurricane and its aftermath,

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) will conduct a workshop from noon - 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25 at the University Center’s Bayou City Room. Additional information on services available at CAPS can be found on at http://www.caps.uh.edu/.

The Division of Student Affairs also invited faculty, staff and students who suffered damage to their homes and who lost power, to use the showers at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center (CRWC) during the day.

CRWC also is providing child care services to children of faculty, staff and students who are home due to the closure of schools. Children 2-5 will be served at the Cubbie Corner, which has a capacity of 32, on the first floor. Children 6-12 will participate in camp type activities. Hours are from 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Children should bring lunch, wear sneakers and comfortable clothes, swimsuits, towels, toys and other items they may need during the day – including school books if they want to study. Parents should register at the Cubbie Corner in the first floor rotunda area.  The day camp has a capacity of 75. For more information on openings, call 713-743-7529.

Other UH child care services include the Human Development Lab School and the Children Care Center. As of Sept. 22 at the Human Development Lab School, five slots were available for children 18-30 months and nine slots for pre-kindergarten- and kindergarten-aged children. Call 713-743-4130 for more information. As of Sept. 23, the Child Care Center had six openings for Hurricane Ike recovery for this week. The center is charging its normal rate. Call 713-743-5480 or visit http://www.uh.edu/ccc/ for more information.

In addition to participating in Hurricane Ike recovery projects, UH also is offering its services to Houstonians.

  • The College of Pharmacy will work through local hospitals and local pharmacies to provide its services, including medication counseling to individuals throughout the surrounding areas and Houston. Contact: 713-743-1300.
  • The College of Optometry's University Eye Institute is providing care for patients with storm-related eye injuries. It is also providing rapid optical services to replace lost or broken spectacles and contact lenses.
  • The Mobile Eye Institute is operational and available for deployment in coordination with the city of Houston to provide essential eye care services for displaced Houstonians.
  • The UH Law Center will have its Texas Consumer Complaint Center open around the clock, seven days a week, to receive questions and help with legal issues including landlord/tenant, employment, insurance and tree problems.
  • The College of Technology will offer technical assistance to community service organizations as they rebuild their IT infrastructure.
  • The Cullen College of Engineering will provide services and resources to the greater Houston community through the Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology, in conjunction with the College of Engineering faculty and the Center for Innovative Grouting Materials and Technology.
  • The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics will provide consultation to mathematics and science teachers in public schools to help solve problems related to Hurricane Ike. Contact: 713-743-0961 or dprince@uh.edu.

Staff reports