Students across the university are reaching out to Harrisburg.
The EF4 tornado that devastated the town’s community Wednesday left 200 to 300 homes and 25 businesses damaged or destroyed. Students, faculty and staff have helped the town by volunteering to clean up and donate money and supplies.
Andy Fruth, an SIUC alumnus from Freeport, gathered members of his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, to organize a volunteer trip to Harrisburg Saturday.
He graduated in 2008, when the May derecho hit Carbondale, and judging by the support of outsiders who came to the town to help, Fruth said he thought it was a no-brainer to help out Harrisburg as well.
“You really have no idea what the devastation is like until you’re here and see it,” he said.
Fruth said he didn’t expect many people to be able to come out to help, but at one point he had about 50 people volunteering with him.
One of the volunteers was Kevin Ruby, a senior from Wheeling studying computer science and a member of Phi Kappa Tau. He said the devastation was worse than he expected, and he hoped if his town were in the same situation, people would show up to help.
“I’m sure it’s a very rough time for (Harrisburg), so giving them as much support as possible definitely helps,” Ruby said.
Greeks often have a negative stereotype, he said, but volunteering for Harrisburg shows they do a lot of good things for the community.
Jody DeVries, a freshman from Staunton studying plant and soil science and agriculture systems, and a member of Delta Zeta, said she volunteered to help clean up because it’s the right thing to do.
“We’re not that far, and a lot of people, if they can, should come out, and a lot of people from our school have,” she said.
Harry Whitt, a freshman from Durham, N.C., studying English and business, and a member of the SIU basketball team, said he knew he wanted to volunteer, but because of certain athletic events, the Student Athlete Academic Council has been slow to organize a volunteer trip.
“I thought I would come out here, volunteer and see what they need, so maybe I could organize a drive,” Whitt said.
The Saluki Athletics program put together a drive at the women’s softball tournament Saturday and plans to continue raising donations.
Abby O’Donnell, graduate assistant of marketing with Saluki Athletics, said the drive was very successful, with three laundry bins full of bottled water, non-perishable food items, hygiene products and other cleaning products.
Football Coach Dale Lennon said details are still being worked out, but the football team plans to volunteer in Harrisburg Tuesday.
Many of the university’s faculty, staff and students live in Harrisburg or have family there, Chancellor Rita Cheng said.
“That community is tied to the rest of southern Illinois in a very significant way, so what we can do to help out is very important,” she said.
The university posted links on its home page, Cheng said, for the university community to make donations of money. There are also drop boxes (locations listed below) for non-perishable food and cleaning supplies through Friday.
Cheng said the drive is going tremendously. The plant services staff has been monitoring the drop boxes and taking them to the Newman Catholic Student Center when they’re full.
“This is only the first stage,” Cheng said. “There’s so much that needs to be done in Harrisburg to bring them back to normalcy.”
Drop box locations are at the Agriculture Building Room 200; Rehn Hall Room 113; Student Center, under the north escalator (across from the Information Center); Student Recreation Center, near the equipment desk; Trueblood Hall, near the dining room; Lentz Hall, near the dining room; Colyer Hall on Greek Row; and Evergreen Terrace, near the laundry room.