Lions Bring Holiday Cheer in Hurricane Relief

When Hurricane Harvey struck last August, the Texas A&M-Commerce women's basketball team was one month away from preseason conditioning. Nevertheless, after seeing reports of the devastation, the Lions felt compelled to help with relief efforts during their break between games. They joined a relief trip organized by Student Affairs Coordinator and Associate Professor Dr. Lavelle Hendricks.

Lions Head Coach Jason Burton rode out to southeast Texas with his team to help with cleanup. “We have a platform to help others, and I'm glad we could be here,” said Burton.

News of the catastrophic storm brought back sad memories for senior guard, and Shreveport native, Princess Davis. “I see it all the time back home, people losing their homes in hurricanes. It's always good to give back,” said Davis, who will start her master's degree this spring.

It was the second time since Harvey struck the gulf coastal area that A&M-Commerce enlisted students to help with relief efforts, organized by Dr. Hendricks. The team worked side by side with students from Dr. Hendricks' class, gutting out homes and installing flooring.

“I've never been through anything like losing my home,” said senior forward Artaejah Gay, who will also be starting her master’s degree this spring. “This makes me more grateful for what I have at the end of the day.”

The students joined in to assist Splendora, a community in Montgomery County, north of Houston. It was listed by FEMA as one of the top 20 areas hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey. Its residents have owner-financed homes and don't qualify for FEMA housing assistance. Despite their frustration, the community is grateful to have had the students and players in helping them rebuild.

“I want to commend the university for coming out and helping,” said Berri Gessner, a former teacher forced into retirement due to a tumor. “Go Lions!” Gessner plans to set up a neighborhood tutoring center for children.

“She's grateful for so much, but people still need a lot of help,” said Coach Burton as Gessner drove up with two fruitcakes to give to him. “I wish we didn't have a game and could do more, but I'm glad my team was able to come out and realize how blessed we are.”

Splendora residents Lori Jenkins and her husband had been married for less than three months and in their new home for only a week when the storm ravaged it. “They said there was 27 feet of water. It was chest deep by the time we evacuated,” said Jenkins.

Players tore out the flooring and walls in her home in order to get rid of mold.

“This is a great opportunity for our girls to use their talents outside of the court,” said Lions Assistant Coach Gabby Scott, as the team headed to San Antonio for their next game.