VLS Students Ship Aid Home to Houston

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Texas Natives Help Out from Afar

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on Houston, Texas, several students at Vermont Law School have stepped forward with a long distance plan to gather and deliver food and household supplies to affected Houstonians. Originally hailing from the Houston area, third-year law student Evangeline Williams decided that she wasn’t going to let the 1,500 mile distance between her and her hometown stop her from helping that city’s recovery.

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Soon joined by third-year law student and fellow Houstonian Stephanie Van Staden, Williams began the process of gathering some of the non-perishable food and household supplies required to provide relief for the more than 30,000 Houston residents that had been displaced by the Category 4 hurricane.

Vermont Law Student Evangeline Williams prepares several boxes of emergency food and supplies for shipment to her hometown of Houston, Texas. (Herald / Dylan Kelley)

“To be far away, it was gutwrenching,” said Williams. “It was really heavy to be sitting up here and not doing anything, that’s why I began collecting.”

“It was scary,” said Van Staden, who was raised on the north side of Houston. “Definitely terrifying and devastating considering my entire family still lives in the greater Houston area,” she added, recalling the experience of helplessly watching coverage of the catastrophic flooding.

“Evangeline came up with the idea and said ‘hey, do you want to do something to help out with the hurricane?’” said Van Staden, who agreed immediately.

A Community Effort

After mentioning the emerging project to a fellow parent at Tunbridge Central School who suggested dramatically expanding the project, Van Staden and Williams were joined by scores of other Vermont residents in their efforts. Soon, boxes began arriving from Barre, Burlington, and Pomfret, among others.

“The communities around here were the biggest impact in all of this,” said Van Staden in a telephone interview, praising many Vermonters who remembered the affects of another major storm.

“People who were most affected by Irene, people who’d had their homes destroyed. People from all over the state that were willing to come forward and help,” she said, recounting the donations and support she and Williams received for everything from baby food to shipping supplies.

“I’ve received over 60 cans of baby formula,” said Van Staden, detailing the supplies that have been boxed up and sent to Texas. “I sent at least three or four big boxes that were full of packages of diapers; toothpaste; shampoo; conditioner; baby wipes, bug spray, batteries, flashlights, clothing.”

In addition to gathering non-perishable food items, Williams has also gathered dozens of boxes of baby formula, diapers, and other childcare supplies. (Herald / Dylan Kelley)

In addition to critically needed shipments of non-perishable food and water, Williams and Van Staden were also careful to include large amounts of basic cleaning supplies needed for residents to begin the process of digging out and rebuilding their homes.

“They’re also asking for cleaning supplies and face masks because they’re out of those supplies as well,” said Williams who traveled to Houston last week to assist ongoing recovery efforts.

“It’s really hard for them to get into their house and be able to stay there,” she said. “Their houses were literally sitting in sewer water for two and half weeks.”

To date, Williams and Van Staden have sent nearly 100 boxes of supplies to a variety of emergency shelters and distribution centers across Harris and Montgomery counties.

“If they keep coming in we’re going to keep shipping them down,” said Williams, recalling the experience of traveling to Houston once the airport was reopened.

“There’s a new normal now,” said Williams. “It was not the same feeling as previous times of going back home,” she said as she carefully taped up another set of boxes at Vermont Law School on Friday afternoon. “I don’t think that it’s wrecked them,” she added. “If anything, I think that it’s made Houston stronger.”


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