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LSC-University Park employee drives Hurricane Harvey backpack initiative

HOUSTON – More than 60 Lone Star College-University Park students affected by Hurricane Harvey received backpacks filled with school supplies in the fall 2017 semester. The effort was led by Brandi Jones, a professional development trainer and adjunct faculty member at LSC-University Park.

“Hurricane Harvey hit right as the school year was beginning,” said Jones. “Many students lost everything and I wanted LSC-University Park students to worry about one less thing to purchase in their lives.” 

After watching the news and seeing many children rescued with only their backpacks, Jones had the idea to collect backpacks for area students, including those at LSC-University Park.

“I texted several friends with children and asked if they could donate a backpack or two and write letters of encouragement to their peers affected by Harvey to put in the backpacks,” said Jones. “My friend, Jamie Cloma, replied back that she and her family wanted to help make the idea happen on a larger scale. Within two days, we put together a community event in the Waterside community. Word spread and over 50 volunteers helped collect backpacks, supplies, books, letters of encouragement, and stuffed animals.”

Jones’s family, friends, Waterside community volunteers and LSC-University Park faculty and staff donated to the effort. Jones also purchased 100 backpacks and filled them with school supplies with her own funds. About 350 backpacks were collected in total.

“The sense of community at LSC-University Park is something we’re proud of,” said LSC-University Park President Shah Ardalan. “Students matter and our faculty and staff live that truth every day, especially in times of need like Hurricane Harvey.”

In addition to donations to LSC-University Park students, Jones and volunteers filled two cars to the brim with backpacks and contacted Flour Bluff Independent School District near Port Aransas. The district enrolled displaced students from the Rockport, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas area.

“At first, I had no idea who I would donate the backpacks to, but I insisted on following my heart,” said Jones. “When we found Flour Bluff ISD,  I wanted to let the children in that area know that Houston cared about them.”

“Our initiative allowed a sense of purpose for many during the aftermath of Harvey,” said Jones. “It was beautiful to see family, friends, and the community work together in a short time to pull this together.”

Jones will also take the lead on a 911 Bears project that is set to begin in the coming months at LSC-University Park. The project aims to collect new teddy bears to assist law enforcement officers when they make calls involving stressful situations and children. 

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