‘Something that matters’: UA students pitch in on hurricane recovery

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Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Richetto

Instead of cheering on the Tide, some UA students spent their gameday weekends helping a community in need. 

For two weekends in October, University of Alabama students traveled down to Daphne, Alabama, to help with Hurricane Sally relief efforts. 

Hurricane Sally was a destructive Category 2 storm, the first to make landfall in Alabama since 2004. The storm struck coastal Alabama with winds at 105 mph, leaving four dead across the Southeast and thousands without power, according to Reuters

On Oct. 10 and Oct. 17, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assembled a group and went down to Daphne, Alabama to help people who were affected by the damaging wind and rain. 

Mason McVicker, a senior majoring in computer engineering, was part of the group of students who went to Daphne after Hurricane Sally. McVicker had previously gone on a trip to Pensacola after Hurricane Laura, a deadly Category 4 storm that originated off the West African coast. 

He said that while there was more home damage in Pensacola, there were more fallen trees in Daphne. During both trips, he saw a lot of people in need. One Daphne family, he said, had lost their roof, water, air conditioning and power. 

“We helped them remove all of the fallen trees around the house and a tree leaning on the house so it wouldn’t fall, and we were able to provide them a case of water and cleaning supplies,” McVicker said. “It was really great to see how grateful they were for the help we were able to give… They were all so appreciative and kind despite the hard times they were in.” 

For students like McVicker, this was not the first time they helped in hurricane relief. Kyrsten Myrup, a sophomore majoring in international studies and environmental science, went down to the coast for two weekends. She said that this experience was the kind where “you give a lot but you get so much in return.” 

“It is the sort of thing that can unite everyone despite outside stressors,” Myrup said. “This opportunity gave me a chance to get away from the stress of school and work, and it allowed me to do something that matters. It has given me the motivation to do the other things in my life.” 

Volunteering in hurricane relief efforts has also provided students with an opportunity to learn more about regions they don’t know much about. 

Max Frampton, a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering, is from Utah, and he said the experience opened his eyes to what strong winds could do.

“One stream where we passed had a really big tree that had crushed a fence near multiple property lines,” Frampton said. “This guy came to help us who lived nearby. We knew that he had probably experienced damage to his home and property, but he decided to take the time to help someone else in need. This really impacted me because for us to be out there, you know, we didn’t have anything to worry about at home, but to see other people who needed help decide to help others was inspiring.”

One of the group leaders, Brandon Kasteler, works for Habitat for Humanity and has helped with numerous relief projects, including aid efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Despite his vast experience in service, he described the trip as “magical.” 

“One of the most fun experiences for us was when we had to go through an alleyway that felt like someone else’s driveway to get to this lady’s house,” Kasteler said. “We were able to knock that out pretty quickly, and on the way out we saw that the neighbors’ had a huge tree down so we asked if we could help. We spent about three hours there, and they were really nice people. He just kept thanking us over and over.”