By Peyton Sheehan
News Staff Writer
While areas along the coast received billions of dollars worth of damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, Western North Carolina made an effort to help those who needed it as much as possible.
In WNC, minimal damages occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, but this did not stop members of the Bass Fishing Club at Western Carolina University. Ten members along with one former team member left Cullowhee at midnight on Aug. 29.
Jacob Boyd, president of the team, said watching the news and social media is one thing that inspired them to help out.
“Seeing the devastation is what got us sparked on going. I couldn’t imagine what those people felt like having their life consumed with water. We just felt like it was our duty as American citizens to help out our neighbors,” Boyd said.
Zach Tallent, club vice president, said they were first contacted by a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon asking for people with boats to aid in the rescue effort.
“We jumped on the ball so fast that we ended up kind of doing our own thing until we got there, because we knew time was of the essence,” Tallent said.
Jack Crumpton, club treasurer, said they drove to Texas not really knowing what they were getting into but it all worked out for the best. First, they drove to the civic center at Lake Charles, Louisiana and unloaded their supplies they brought for those in need.
“We put our boats in the water as soon as we could, then started pulling people out. That evening we pulled out between 30 and 40 people,” Crumpton said.
During the three days the team was helping out, they spent most of their time in Orange and Vidor, Texas, and some time in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Tallent said the scenes they witnessed were more overwhelming than what is seen on the news networks.
When the team decided to help, they reached out to WLOS with the intention of drawing attention to their fundraiser to help with travel costs. Shortly after, more publicity seemed to follow.
“We are so grateful for everyone’s support and so blessed to live in the community in which we do. We were able to raise $9,915 when our original goal was only $3,000. We plan to donate the leftover funds,” Tallent said.
The governor of Texas estimates the damages of Hurricane Harvey to be between $150 to $180 billion, Fortune reported. An estimated 50 people died within the 300 mile path of destruction, while more than 1 million people were displaced and 200,000 homes were damaged.
After returning from their travels, Tallent said the team left feeling very humbled by the experience, more than anything they have ever done before as a group.
Surprisingly, they did not have any issues traveling to or from Texas. The team returned back to Cullowhee around 4 a.m. on Sept. 1.
“I think if you are willing and able, you should help out someone in need. The blessings you receive after you do something like that are far more than imaginable,” Boyd said.
Residents of the Asheville area also put forth effort into helping hurricane victims.
On Sept. 10, Weaverville local business owner Jeff Mcleod fed some of the Florida evacuees at Camp Cedar Cliff in Black Mountain. Mcleod said despite the short notice from Camp Cedar Cliff owner Tim Brady, he knew this was something worth doing.
“We fed roughly around 250 people that afternoon. Many of the people were grateful that we were there,” Mcleod said.
UNC Asheville also put forth effort to help out hurricane victims. From Sept. 14 to Sept. 26, UNCA’s Student Government Association fundraised money to donate to Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, OXFAM. All of the money that was donated went to the organization and will go to the islands off the coast of the U.S. that were affected by Hurricane Irma.
The Student Affairs Committee of SGA was in charge of the fundraiser, but Alex Schneider, sophomore senator and atmospheric science student, was the main organizer of the whole fundraiser.
“We felt that if we donated to the American Red Cross the money we raised would go toward Florida or Texas. While those are both great causes, we felt that a lot of people were already donating to these locations and we wanted to send our help elsewhere,” Schneider said.