By Samuel Butterfass
[email protected]

Over several weeks, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria and other tropical storms made landfall on the Caribbean islands and the southern coast of the United States.

In some cases the storms caused crippling infrastructural damage.

On the island of Barbuda, an estimated 95 percent of structures have sustained some kind of damage from the storms.

In other cases, like in Puerto Rico, which sustained damage to its power grid, the storms triggered a humanitarian crisis.

While relief workers continue the recovery effort, many students at CSB/SJU have made calls to family and friends who may have been affected by the storms.

Armando Turrubiates is an SJU junior from the north side of Houston, Texas, which was one of the areas that was flooded as a result of damage from Hurricane Harvey.

“I didn’t care what happened to my house or my personal belongings, my main concern was the safety of my family and friends,” Turrubiates said. “Everybody in my family is safe.”

Turrubiates said that the support he received from peers and faculty at school helped him through what he described as a “gut-wrenching” time.

“I had students and even the Faculty Resident knock on my door just to see if I was okay and if everything back home was fine,” Turrubiates said.

SJU made an effort to raise money for one community in Florida that was affected by Hurricane Irma.

In an email to SJU faculty and the student body, SJU President Michael Hemesath told students where they could make cash and check donations to help the city of Immokalee recover.

From Oct. 10-13, SJU collected money to be sent to Catholic Charities through the Diocese of Venice, Florida—the diocese that Immokalee is located in.

Over $1,700 was raised for the Immokalee community by SJU students and faculty.

“We, as an institution, are not in the business of making philanthropic donations,”
Hemesath said.

While Hemesath acknowledged that he wants to avoid supporting some causes over others, he said that SJU has a special relationship with the Immokalee community, more so than CSB does, and that several faculty members had approached him to see if there was something that they could do for the city.

Immokalee is a town of roughly 25,000 people. It is near Naples, Florida where Hemesath says many CSB/SJU alumni have purchased homes and second homes.

As a result of this proximity, SJU developed a relationship with Immokalee’s public high school, recruiting future Johnnies from the community.

“I would normally simply encourage members of our community to make their own philanthropic choices about where to contribute,” Hemesath wrote in his email to faculty and the student body. “But a number of our students are from the
Immokalee area and several people on campus have reached out to me asking how they could best contribute to relief efforts there.”

According to Hemesath, there are six students from Immokalee currently attending SJU.

Hemesath emphasized that supporting relief efforts of the Immokalee community was an exception.

“Not a single dollar of St. John’s money was spent,” Hemesath said.