Dear members of the Gettysburg College community,
I am sure you are all well aware of the devastating impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma over the last two weeks. Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes and businesses in search of safety and shelter. Many are now living day-to-day in need of clean water, food, and other basic necessities.
Our thoughts go out to all of the families and communities uprooted by these powerful storms. Some of you have asked how you can help, and I write to share some ideas.
Volunteer Opportunities: In keeping with the College’s mission, which emphasizes a “lifelong commitment to service” and a “sensitivity to the human condition,” we encourage our students, alumni, and employees to seek opportunities—both on and off campus—to get involved with the hurricane relief effort.
The State of Texas is asking that volunteers do not self-deploy, as unexpectedly showing up to any of the affected communities could create an additional burden for first responders. Instead, they are suggesting that volunteers connect with associated affiliates or organizations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has listed dozens of National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army on its website at www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly, or you may visit www.nvoad.org/hurricane-harvey/volunteer.
Our Center for Public Service (CPS) is currently monitoring developments and working with partner organizations to determine the most effective time to send volunteers. CPS wants to ensure our volunteers do not put an additional strain on available resources in the affected areas. A campus-wide announcement will be made when volunteer trips have been organized.
For employees who wish to volunteer, there will be a critical need for many months to come. All regular full-time and part-time employees may be eligible for up to 10 days of paid leave between now and August 31, 2018 for volunteering either in the affected areas or locally to support hurricane relief. Employees must have one year of service at Gettysburg College and be in good standing for participation. To volunteer, employees must complete the Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Request Form and submit it to their immediate supervisor at least 2 weeks prior to the requested time off.
Donations: Leaders from higher education associations, institutions, foundations, and businesses have come together to launch the Harvey HELP Fund, a crowd-sourced relief fund dedicated to aiding close to 500,000 students affected by Hurricane Harvey—almost a third of all college and university students in the state. HELP, which stands for Higher Education Learning Pathways, will provide emergency funds to enable students in southeast Texas to stay on or more quickly return to their education pathway.
Gettysburg Outreach: I also want to take a moment to recognize a few examples of our ongoing outreach efforts across the campus community. Our Alumni Relations Office has reached out with messages of support to 300 Gettysburg alumni and parents in Texas and to 700 in Florida. Meanwhile, our College Life Division has been in communication with students whose families were affected by the storms.
I’d also like to acknowledge the work of our Athletic Department—specifically our men’s and women’s basketball teams—who collected new and gently used clothing and backpacks, and shipped them to the University of Houston men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson to deliver to relief agencies in the area.
I am confident that we will continue to rally together in support of those in need during these challenging times. I thank you for your compassion and willingness to lend a helping hand.
Janet Morgan Riggs ’77