Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University has raised $495 in gift cards for the faculty, staff and students of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., with a donation drive.
The gift card drive was organized by the university’s Joe Mertz Center for Volunteer Service in response to the fires that have devastated the Westmont campus and area of Santa Barbara.
Grace McBrayer, director of first year students and volunteer services, said the idea came to her after hearing at a conference how a gift card drive had helped Union University personnel.
Union, in Tennessee, was hit by a tornado, and one of the donations appreciated most was gifts cards that people sent them, McBrayer said.
“Gift cards will help with the day-to-day needs that no one thinks about,” she said. “It’s the people who need simple things like the contact solution that was just burned in their dorm or house that this gift will help.”
Sage Johnson, a senior at Westmont, said hundreds of institutions and organizations nationwide have sent aid. The city of Santa Barbara also has done its part to assist residents until their homes can be rebuilt.
Johnson said she walked around Westmont’s campus the day students were allowed to return and touched the stumps of what used to be towering green pines.
“Charcoal came off on my fingers,” Johnson said. “It used to be so green, and now it is all ash.”
The students were evacuated from campus Nov. 12 and returned Dec. 1. The two-and-a-half week recess encompassed Thanksgiving break and allowed construction crews to get a jump on cleaning up the rubble around campus, Johnson said.
She said there is not too much to say other than that the campus is devastated.
“We will all get through this with the help of our community and our nation,” Johnson said.
McBrayer said Huntington was pleased to provide assistance in this time of tragedy not only because Westmont is a fellow member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities but also because many of those affected are friends and family of Huntington’s faculty, staff and students.
“On the bright side,” Johnson said, “some of one of the time we missed was Thanksgiving break anyway, and the generosity of thousands is helping us begin to rebuild.”
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