Hurricane Irma and Florida Spartans
HURRICANE IRMA AND FLORIDA SPARTANS
In the days leading up to the Hurricane Irma’s landfall, less than a week after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, citizens of Florida scrambled to either evacuate or prepare to wait out the storm in their homes. Florida Governor Rick Scott urged citizens to, “Leave now, don’t wait”, noting that “This thing is bigger than our entire state”. For many, memories of Hurricane Andrew loomed in the back of their minds – the 1992 storm destroyed more than 63,500 houses, caused $26.5 billion in damage, and left 65 people dead.
In order to prevent similar loss of life from occurring, many groups, including our Florida alumni clubs, amassed their resources and began to prepare for what was predicted to be one of the biggest threats Florida had faced in the past decade. Our alumni clubs often serve as extended family for many living around the country. As witnessed in Houston, in times of trial, we lean on each other. Club leaders in the southeast United States quickly mobilized to best support their alumni in appeared to be harm’s way.
As a whole, the Michigan State University Alumni Association offered any and all available resources as assistance. Various groups contributed in unique ways to ensure the safety of those who were in the storm’s path. For example, the Houston Spartans, still in the midst of managing support for their alumni family affected by Hurricane Harvey, hosted a conference call with many alumni club leaders from Florida and the southeast United States to share their experience, offer advice, and answer questions. The group communicated about what they felt was effective, what they wished they had known, how they improvised, and what they would have done differently if they had more time and information. For those who could not participate in the call due to work conflicts, storm preparation, or evacuation, notes from the call were emailed to the relevant alumni clubs to ensure that everyone received the same information about how to best prepare for the storm. It was a coordinated effort spanning from Texas to East Lansing to Florida to arm volunteers with valuable information. These communications between the alumni clubs helped to calm nerves during a stressful time by having more information available and further strengthening the sense of community already present amongst Spartans across the country. Amy McGraw (Communication Arts and Sciences ’89), South Florida Spartans President, stated at the conclusion of the coordination call with Houston Spartans leaders, “Thank you, I think we can do this now.”
On social media, many alumni clubs encouraged their members to stay safe and made it known that if anyone was in need of assistance, they could feel free to reach out via email or Facebook; others also posted links to phone numbers or websites that were offering aid. Club volunteers coordinated with those board members who had successfully evacuated and had power to monitor their email and social media accounts in order to ensure that they were attentive to the needs of alumni.
After the storm passed, alumni clubs continued to post links to locations of shelters, supplies, etc. Some members were even kind enough to offer their homes to fellow Spartans who had been left without a place to stay. Clubs worked to organize volunteers and refer them to established charities that were providing aid. They utilized social media and their game watches to collect goods for those affected by the hurricane, and are continuing to do so.
What primarily stands out in the wake of this powerful storm is the resilience and unity shown by the Michigan State University alumni community. The mobilization of dozens of volunteers during a time of great stress and emotion to help others embodies what it truly means to be a Spartan and the strength of the alumni community. Spartans lift each other up and do everything possible to ensure the security of their fellow alumni. Spartans act with selflessness and generosity to help others. Who will rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma? Spartans Will.
Contact information for the Space Coast Spartans:
Ronald Krell (Broad College of Business ’76), firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact information for the Suncoast Spartans (Sarasota/Bradenton):
Paula Hancock (Communication Arts and Sciences ’78), email@example.com