JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The devastation of Hurricane Harvey may be one of the worst storms in recent memory. Thousands have been left with only the clothes on their back, questioning when and how they will get be able to move past the destruction.
Like a call to arms, volunteers from the Medical Education and Training Campus, Naval Medical Training Support Center, and the 59th Training Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston took action. They worked diligently to collect non-perishable food items, clothing, blankets, shoes, diapers, pet food, and other items.
The effort was led by 1st Lt. Ebony Shannon, METC Campus Support Center Information Technology Director. She originally initiated the “Hurricane Harvey Relief Program” with the idea of engaging her department with the goal to help at least some of the 450,000 victims affected by the storm.
Shannon quickly realized that the effort was much bigger than her department and found support from Petty Officer 1st Class Alejandrina Alonzo, NMTSC career counselor, and Senior Airman Nathan Hernandez, 59th TRG information systems technician.
Alonzo and Hernandez were planning donation efforts with their commands and decided they could accomplish more as a team then each could do individually.
The donation effort grew rapidly. Donation boxes were placed in each of the METC Medical Instructional Facilities and Headquarters, and in areas around NMTSC and the 59th TRG.
Over a period of two weeks the team, supported by 33 dedicated Navy and Air Force volunteers and civilians, collected, sorted and packed all of the items for delivery.
In all, the team collected and donated more than 1,000 pounds of food to the San Antonio Food Bank, $3,300 in donated diapers to the Diaper Bank, $19,000 in clothing and incidentals to the Salvation Army, and numerous donations to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and homeless shelters.
“I'm extremely grateful to all who donated and the outcome of the Hurricane Drive,” Alonzo said. “After Hurricane Harvey happened all I could think was, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ This drive did just that. I know this won't fix all the problems, but it's a start.”
For Hernandez, it was personal. Growing up in Puerto Rico, he lived through Hurricane Hortense. Irreplaceable family photos were among the items lost in the devastation.
“It was a very hard time for our family, and since I can relate to the pain these families are currently going through I decided to act and find a way to help. That's when the Hurricane Harvey Donation Event idea was born,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez began collecting donations within the 59 Training Group.
“Shortly after, we merged with METC in order to get as much donations as possible. To our surprise the response was amazing and people were willing to help from any side.”
“This program’s success could not have happened without the teamwork and cooperation of everyone involved,” Shannon added. “They made this a project that was worth leading and fulfilled the goal I dreamed about 100 times over.”
Hernandez, Shannon, and Alonzo would like to thank everyone who was involved in any way with this event.
“Whether it was donating or volunteering, you guys have made a real difference in the lives of the people affected by this tragedy,” Hernandez said. “This goes way beyond any particular service or individual.
“It really goes to show the resiliency of the human spirit.”