Six weeks after the unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf states, the UW community’s response continues to grow and evolve with help and hospitality for those affected.
And though the powerful Hurricane Rita followed Katrina with a second awful body blow to the Gulf region, that storm did not spark the sort of relief efforts in which the UW is participating.
Even as the headlines of Katrina’s damage begin to fade from the front pages, donations of time, talent, resources and, most of all, cash from UW sources campuswide (and loyal alumni) are still coming in, to the Hurricane Katrina Scholarship Fund and to the Combined Fund Drive, which distributes to many charitable agencies year-round.
In the day and weeks following the disaster, students whose home universities were flooded by Katrina came to the UW by the score, each reporting to the Katrina Student Resource Center, appropriately set up in the Gateway Center in Mary Gates Hall. There, staff members in First Year Programs helped the students begin to find their way in their new homes. In all, Katrina sent 93 student evacuees to the UW — 62 are undergraduates, 22 are graduate students and nine are law students.
They came a long way, and in some cases without any knowledge of how long they’d be away from their ruined homes, or indeed if they would ever return. George Zeno, development director for minority affairs and diversity for the Office of Development & Alumni Relations, said, “We took a survey of the students to see what their needs are specifically and nearly all of them who don’t call Seattle home said winter clothing. Many came to orientation in flip-flops and shorts, having left a region with 100-degree weather. One girl asked, ‘Is it going to get colder than this?’” Zeno said.
Zeno has been solicitng in-kind donations from area businesses to help the students. He said such donations, unlike cash, require less paperwork and can more quickly go to those in need. The UW is taking the lead in making such solicitations on behalf of students coming here and to Seattle University, which is taking in about 50 displaced students.
So far, Zeno said, $7,500 in gift cards have been promised, from REI ($5,000 total, with $3,500 going to UW students and $1,500 to those at Seattle University) and from the University Book Store. Major department and grocery chains also are considering gift card donations, he said, especially for winter clothes. Additionally, Microsoft Corp. is working on donating software and laptop computers, Costco is promising to fill unmet needs for clothing and food, and many smaller companies are considering donations, too.
“The interest is strong,” Zeno said. “Corporations really want to help their community and have a direct impact.” He said the Athletic Department also had donated to displaced students about 100 tickets to the Huskies’ Nov. 5 Homecoming football game against Oregon State University.
Total giving to the Combined Fund Drive stands at $3,126 so far, with more to come as the annual drive kicked off on Wednesday. Donations to the University for Katrina relief total $101,645, reflecting an unbidden $100,000 contribution from alumni Lawrence and Mary Ellen Piggott Hughes. A benefit evening of music on Oct. 2 at the Mirabeau Room also raised about $1,000.
Following Katrina, the UW’s doors opened not only to displaced students, but also to faculty members. So far, seven faculty members from the Gulf area have been invited to work at the UW in various capacities from visiting scholar (an unpaid position) to visiting professorships. So far, there are two visiting faculty in biology, two in chemistry, one in philosophy, one in music and one in English. Appointments are being negotiated for others in music, mathematics, history and digital arts.