Coaches team up to help flood victims

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Coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Superior teamed up this week to send a care package to Texas, where massive flooding has forced a reported 32,000 people into shelters around Houston.

Some of those affected may soon be sporting Yellowjacket logos, thanks to a call for help from the University of Houston.

"It started yesterday. I think it was their men's basketball coach who kind of put it all out on Twitter, 'Let's get schools from around the country to help us out down here and send some things,' and it just took off," Jon Garver, UWS sports information manager, said Wednesday.

The message asked colleges if they had any additional apparel or footwear they could donate to Houston efforts for those impacted by the flood.

Within 24 hours, a pile of UWS T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, pants, shorts and shoes was ready to be packed up.

"We got the call yesterday, and we sent it out to the coaches and right away pretty much every coach was able to pull a few items from their programs to donate," said UWS Athletic Director Nick Bursik. "So it truly is a gift from all of our athletic programs and all our athletes."

The pile included standard workout gear, retro orange T-shirts and even pink apparel from a breast cancer event.

"I don't know even what I have yet," Garver said. "I just know the box was heavier than I expected."

UWS wasn't the only college to respond. The original tweet from Houston coach Kelvin Sampson has received replies from colleges nationwide — Arizona and Arkansas to New York, Minnesota and Washington.

"All these schools from around the country are boxing new gear and new apparel up, and sending it down," Garver said. "It's pretty neat. Everybody's jumping on board."

UWS junior Sam Westgaard, a hockey player, helped fold items Wednesday. She was impressed with the school's response.

"I thought it was super cool," she said. "It was really inspiring."

"It's nice for even the smaller towns up here to give back," said senior Alex Dzikonski, who is on the school's track and field team.

The package was sent via campus mail Thursday.

"Community service and community involvement has always been a pillar for us," Bursik said.

Any time they can help out and impact people positively, he said, it's "definitely something we want to be a part of."

The local American Red Cross chapter has deployed eight people over the past several days to the Houston area, the Duluth News Tribune reported, including a pair of registered nurses and an emergency response vehicle with volunteer specialists in mass feeding operations.

The volunteers come from around the Northland, said Dan Williams, the local American Red Cross executive director whose agency is gearing up for a protracted recovery by anticipating a new flux of volunteers.

"We're going to be doing sheltering and feeding for months," he said. "This is going to be a long haul."

Many feel the need to give, but the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is urging consumers to do their research before they send money to any charity claiming to help those affected by the flooding.

"Scammers see tragedies as a way to line their pockets at the expense of well-meaning citizens," said Frank Frassetto, division administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection. "Give generously to a charity if you are inclined, but always research an organization before sending money."

He advised consumers to research charities by name at www.charitynavigator.org or www.give.org before donating. Be leery of high-pressure pitches or any requests to wire money and feel free to seek out contact information for a charity or operation if you question its legitimacy.

Consumers were warned to watch for network messages, e-mails or texts that claim to have exclusive information or photos. Clicking on attachments or links in these communications can expose your computer or phone to malicious software.

Ways to help

• Go to www.redcross.org or www.helpsalvationarmy.org.

• Text Harvey to 90999 to donate $10.

• Mail or bring monetary donations to the local Red Cross office at 2524 Maple Grove Road, Duluth, MN 55811.
The Badger State Sheriff’s Association is raising money to assist Texas sheriff’s office employees and their families who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey through the “Sheriffs Adopting Sheriffs” program. Checks are being accepted by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, made out to the BSSA.
The Catholic Dioces of Superior will hold a special collection for victims of Hurricane Harvey during weekend Mass.

Duluth News Tribune reporter Brady Slater contributed to this report.