In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the UIW community got to work. 

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall, it was the strongest hurricane to strike Texas since the 1960s. Coastal cities felt the brunt of the Category 4 storm’s impact. The destruction was widespread. Devastating rains and flooding razed homes and damaged infrastructure. Communities were left reeling and faced the monumental task of recovery. In response, University of the Incarnate Word students, faculty and staff came forward determined to help.

A Campus Committed

“The campus community as a whole wanted to be active and engaged,” said Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez, director of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability, which is leading hurricane relief efforts and working with University Mission and Ministry and Campus Engagement.

Offers to help emerged from every corner of the University. To ensure that they didn’t conflict or cause confusion, the Ettling Center focused efforts to benefit four major charities – the San Antonio Food Bank, Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross and the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

Organizations dove in – student athletes raised funds for the Red Cross; the Communication Arts Department and Mission and Ministry collected cleaning supplies and blankets; the Department of Alumni and Parent Relations collected baby supplies; and the new campus restaurant, Pasha Express, donated 100 percent of the proceeds from first week sales to charity, just to name a few projects.

Sr. Walter Maher CCVI, vice president of Mission and Ministry called the community together for a special prayer.

Students Engaged

Paul Ayala, associate dean of Campus Engagement, was in the middle of Welcome Week coordination when the Ettling Center asked to coordinate efforts. “I had a whole week of programming, so I knew it would be difficult, but I said I could help with logistics, planning and marketing,” Ayala said. “I hit send on that email, and almost immediately three student organizations emailed me. Very quickly we had six, seven, eight organizations who wanted to provide relief efforts for those affected by the hurricane, and the momentum was sustained throughout September.”

The Pre-Pharmacy Association was first and asked to set up bins for donations, followed immediately by the Community Health Education Students. The Student Nurses Association wanted to host a blood drive, while the Business Club collected donations for pets. Student leadership, Greek organizations and clubs stepped up as well.

The fact that it was the first week of classes and momentum was building for the year ahead didn’t slow the students’ drive to help. According to Gonzalez, donations of food, water and clothing filled up four U-Haul trucks; the blood drive saw some 40 students in a few hours; and the charities received upwards of $3,000. “It gives you hope,” said Ayala.

Donations of much-needed food and supplies lined the walls of the Student Engagement Center.

A Culture of Caring

The work is far from over, said Gonzalez. “What began as Hurricane Harvey relief turned into disaster relief.”

Soon after, Mexico was shaken by earthquakes and Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. UIW’s response to Harvey helped establish a model for effectively addressing crisis. Part of that includes year-long service.

Gonzalez is coordinating a trip with the Alumni Association to Texas beaches in the spring, utilizing the Cardinal Computer Technology Recycling program to benefit flooded schools along Texas’ Gulf Coast, and working with other departments and campus entities to support relief for Puerto Rico and Mexico.

While offering crisis aid is important, there are issues that are in perpetual need, he said. Charities such as the American Cancer Society, Eva’s Heroes, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, San Antonio Pets Alive!, for instance, are still in need of assistance. The Ettling Center creates opportunities to support them.

“I am honestly very proud of UIW, especially of the students and how they continue to respond,” Gonzalez said.

One Word: Committed

Look to these resources for more information and ways to get involved.

Hurricane Relief

Contact the Ettling Center for Civic Engagement and Sustainability at or (210) 283-6423.

Earthquake Relief

Contact the Office of International Affairs at or (210) 805-5838.