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Gorillas spearhead hurricane relief

Gorillas spearhead hurricane relief

For 20 years, Cynthia Allan, chair of Pittsburg State University's Department of Communication, has always tied a service project into any production she directs with her theater students.

"Every cast I've worked with, I've told them, 'You can't expect the community to support the arts if you don't support the community'," she said. 

Her casts collected goods for food pantries, donations for the Children's Advocacy Center and Safehouse. When an EF-5 tornado leveled much of Joplin in 2011, the cast of a show set in a northwest forest raised money to help buy trees. And in 2012, the cast of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" raised money for hurricane efforts along the Gulf coast when Sandy hit 

PSU's theater alumni have remained close, and now they're embarking on a new project: to collect items and aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey. 

"That's the spirit all of us have lived with," Allan said. 

Allan is working directly with Lucy Miller Downing, a 2008 graduate, who is working on the front lines of hurricane relief in Austin, Texas. Downing has worked as professional actress in Austin and as a theater educator, and has remained active as an alumna by returning to campus to share her expertise with current students. She now manages a performing arts center in Austin, and recently found herself in charge of a 2,000-person shelter. 

"Since she's on the ground there, she knows what it is they need and don't need," Allan said. 

Allan has shared those needs publicly via the department's Facebook page in hopes followers will order supplies online through Amazon and have them shipped directly, but for those who prefer to purchase items themselves and drop them off, she has designated the conference room in her department in Grubbs Hall at the corner of Joplin and Cleveland streets as a collection site. Those who wish to contribute may do so between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. today through Friday this week. 

Also involved in the effort is Stephanie Super, who earned her master's in communication in 2006 and worked as a speech-theater teacher for several years. Now, she works for U.S. Immigration in Kansas City. 

"She is networking with our KC alums, and there are several who have stayed close, to collect everything she can there," Allan said. "Then, she will fill her SUV, pull a trailer, rent a truck — whatever she needs — and haul it down to Texas." 

Downing said personal hygiene items are enormous. 

"It's not glamorous, but that's what they're desperate for," Allan said. 

The list includes: adult diapers, baby diapers, baby wipes, personal wipes, plus-size women's underwear (new, must be in package), feminine hygiene items, razors, hair brushes, tooth paste, hand sanitizer, Clorox bleach wipes, and face wipes. They are not taking clothing, food or toys. 

Like Allan, Downing is encouraging donors to give online if they are able.

Elsewhere on campus, PSU Men's Basketball Coach Kim Anderson boxed up t-shirts and shorts to send to University of Houston Men's Basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson, with a note of support that the team was behind them. 

"It's more than a game," he wrote. 

Student Government Association was successful in a push last week to collect goods by Friday for SGA President Cassandra Ngo to take to Manhattan, Kansas. 

Ngo was attending an athletic event there along with student body presidents from other Regents institutions, and it was used as a central staging point for hurricane relief items. 

Ngo said SGA will do another drive, potentially partnering with Pittsburg High School at the school's request, once they learn from FEMA what hurricane-ravaged communities need most. 

"It was amazing to see the generosity of the PSU community and the community here in general within the two days that we collected donations," Ngo said.

 

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