Following the tornado Sunday, April 27, UCA students, faculty and staff were bombarded with news of the devastation within the Central Arkansas area. In response, these individuals from UCA decided to take action.
“After seeing all the damage on the news and knowing people who were affected by the storm, it just broke my heart,” said Ryan Lusby, recent UCA graduate. “Conway was truly blessed to not have been hit and there is no reason I shouldn’t help out my neighbors. I helped the last time a bad storm went through and it was so humbling to see these people who lost so much being so positive and truly a light for God. We are called to be the hands & feet of the Lord, a better opportunity could not have been presented.”
A weeklong relief effort began May 5 and will continue May 9. The relief campaign has been aptly named “Bear Boots on the Ground.”
“I felt compelled to help with the tornado relief efforts in Mayflower and Vilonia because there is no better way to spend my time now that classes are over for the semester. It is so sad what these people went through, and any little way that I can contribute is worth it,” said Ashley Ross, Student Government Association President.
Students will go to the Faulkner area to offer relief in two shifts either 8-11 a.m. or 12:30-4 p.m. or both.
One motivation to present relief a week following the disaster is that “we know from past disasters that there will be many volunteers the first week; however, after several days, people’s energy starts to wane. Bear Boots on the Ground will give a boost to relief efforts,” said Dr. Gary Roberts, dean of students at UCA.
Students went the affected areas blindly. The only information of the strained area available to the students came from news sites.
“We went out to a neighborhood that was hit pretty bad, so we just went around to the houses and helped go through the rubble. It was crazy that a neighbor’s house could just be missing a couple shingles & the other side house would be completely leveled. On the houses that were bad we went through what was left and made piles of some of the belongings we found,” said Lusby. “Before I went out to help today, I was just able to help through prayer, just constantly lifting these people up and praying for restored hope, health, and faith, my final and work schedule hindered me from being able to go out there any earlier. I am working on getting another group together to go out and help again,” said Lusby.
Alongside students, faculty is also helping in the relief effort. “I personally felt compelled to help simply because I knew I had the ability to. This major disaster happened less than thirty minutes from my home and affected many people I knew. How could I not help? I knew if this happened to me, if everything I’ve ever had was suddenly erased, I would be lost without help,” said Bryce Crabb, vice president of operations for the UCA SGA.
Relief came in different ways to the affected areas from donations of food and monetary assistants to manual labor.
“Our duties were to relocate a pile of debris and rubble to a location that FEMA could easily access. My personal duty was mostly to fill wheel barrels with bricks and take them to a brick pile of rubble. We used buckets, wheel barrels, shovels, rakes, and mostly gloves hands to separate and move debris,” said Crabb.
In addition to manual labor and helping with cleaning up, the SGA also, “set up tables at various locations for students to donate food, clothes, and other items. Along with volunteering on site, we are bringing all of these materials to give to families in need,” said Ross.
UCA buses will transport student volunteers everyday fat 7:30 a.m. and 12p .m. In addition to the busses, the UCA Physical Plant and SGA will provide “rakes, shovels, gloves, hoes, and other tools,” said the press release.