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Saturday, November 25, 2017

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Pharmacy, optometry students raise $40,000 for Harvey relief


Kaycie Rathburn (left) and Alyssa Chaplain sort through school supplies for elementary schools affected by Harvey after the College of Optometry and Pharmacy collected over $40,000 in supplies. | Courtesy of Kaycie Rathburn

After Hurricane Harvey damaged classrooms and interrupted lessons in the Houston area, graduates from the College of Pharmacy and the College of Optometry created a drive that raised more than $40,000 in supplies, which benefited 5,380 students and 150 teachers.

Kaycie Rathburn, second-year pharmacy student and president elect of American Pharmacist Association Academy of Student Pharmacists, came up with the idea for the drive before the flooding hit Houston.

“I was sitting on my parents’ couch during the hurricane and feeling very helpless watching the news,” Rathburn said. “There was so much going on and no way to get anywhere to help. There were a lot of drives going on but nothing for the students and schools.”

Members of APhA-ASP gathered to organize the drive. Lorenzo Anderson, second-year optometry student and co-coordinator of the drive, was in charge of the optometry students who participated.

“I decided to join forces and be part of the fundraiser because I felt for the schools that lost everything they had,” Anderson said. “Education has always been an important piece of my life, as I have many family members that are teachers. I saw them when I heard we could be of service and was eager to help.”

Surpassing expectations

The initial goal was to collect supplies inside the pharmacy and optometry buildings for a couple weeks and send it to Rockport where the hurricane directly hit, Rathburn said.

“After a few days, I got a call from an anonymous donor that said he would give us $1,000, and from there the drive started growing larger and larger,” Rathburn said. “That is when I decided to contact other schools around Rockport and smaller Houston schools that were not already being helped.”

From the 20 schools the students contacted, supplies were sent to the following:

  • Five schools in Aransas Pass ISD – Rockport
  • Bay City Education Speech Department – Bay City
  • Creech Elementary – Katy
  • The Galloway School – Friendswood
  • Pilgrim Lutheran School – Houston
  • St. Thomas’ Episcopal – Houston
  • Carroll Elementary – Houston
  • Shrine of the True Cross Catholic School – Dickinson

The group donated school supplies such as pencils, pens, crayons, markers, erasers, glue sticks, scissors, notebooks, composition books and folders, as well as snacks for after-school programs and new uniforms, Rathburn said.

The type of donations were based on the needs of the schools, Rathburn said. Some schools were not damaged, but their students were significantly impacted, so they received backpacks full of supplies. Others refused donations, because they said they were already being helped, Rathburn said.

“No monetary donations were given to any of the schools because we wanted to stay true to our supporters, and we promised to use their money for supplies,” Rathburn said. “My treasurer kept a spreadsheet with all the donations and exactly what we were spending. We ended up spending $0.86 over the amount donated.”

Second-year pharmacy student Shalon Saju Samuel, who was the treasurer during the drive, said ehe was in Dallas during Harvey but still wanted to help Houstonians in anyway possible.

“I felt the biggest way I could help was to keep track of the donations as they came in and to record the expenses as we used the money for the drive,” Samuel said.

Rathburn said they received over $8,000 in monetary donations and collected over $31,000 in supplies.

Aransas ISD was hit directly by the hurricane, so it received the biggest donation with around $25,000 worth of supplies, Rathburn said. The other nine schools received $1,000 to $1,500 donations of supplies, paper and classroom furnishings.

Joining the cause

Students who were part of the cause had their own reasons for joining.

“I don’t know if it was my studies or career that drove me to be a part of this,” said second-year pharmacy student Jaimy James. “Rather, it was the thing that led me to choose these paths that led me to help out with this drive. I just wanted to help people, especially the children that were affected by circumstances they had no control over.”

A majority of the students in both colleges, undergraduates as well as nursing and medical students from all over the country, donated to our drive, Rathburn said.

“When (Rathburn) first told me about the drive, I didn’t expect it to be a large ordeal, but suddenly our dining room was filling up with boxes from across the nation,” said second-year pharmacy student Callie Downs. “I quickly realized that what I thought was going to be a small drive would impact children all along the Texas coastline, and so I jumped in.”

Rathburn said they had about 100 schools hosting drives and had families who wanted to help from all over the country by sending boxes to them.

To spread the word, a flyer was posted on Facebook on Aug. 27 and shared by the members of the organization. On Sep. 2, the drive was extended to help Houston schools. On Sept. 23, the drive was closed but still received boxes in the mail through October, Rathburn said. By Oct. 10, they completed all the donation deliveries.

None of the students who participated in the drive were directly affected by Harvey, Rathburn said.

“We chose to do this because we were lucky and wanted to give back to our community and our state because it was heartbreaking,” Rathburn said.

Citywide effort

The graduates also received help from sponsors.

“We were sponsored by BB’s Café, which promoted the drive on their social media and put a donation box at all seven of their locations in Houston,” Rathburn said. “The owner of Crystals Children and Teacher Supplies, Mrs. Chow, helped us get the majority of supplies with the monetary donations and gave us 30 to 50 percent off everything.”

BigTex Storage provided a free storage unit from September to November to keep the donations. Cedra Pharmacy provided a drop-off location and a large donation to help buy supplies for two science classrooms at St. Thomas’ Episcopal School , Rathburn said.

“I was able to accompany Kaycie on many deliveries, and at each school, we were greeted with smiles and thanks,” Downs said. “We tried to give the students a little piece of what Harvey took from them, and I think we did just that. This is just the beginning for Texas, but I know that generous hearts are always willing to lend a helping hand.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Kaycie Rathburn’s position in the American Pharmacist Association Academy of Student Pharmacists. She is president elect, not president. It also misstated Shalon Saju Samuel’s pronouns. 

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