On any average August day in southeastern Texas, residents of cities like Houston or Beaumont might be going about their daily routine, only concerned with the heat of the sun. However, the climate has shifted to a tragic extreme as one North Potomac family watches the news as they sit safely at home, watching hundreds of thousands of people there fighting to survive against Hurricane Harvey. Seeing help is desperately needed, junior Aleko Sardelis and his family sprang into action, starting a relief drive from over 1,000 miles away.
Over the course of five days from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6, Sardelis gathered diapers, toiletries, canned food and bottled water to support the displaced and needy members of Texas’ Gulf Coast region. According to him, the drive was urgent and could not have happened soon enough. “We knew people in Texas, but we didn’t know of any drives going on, so we decided to start our own,” Sardelis said.
While Sardelis has rallied support for the drive in daily conversations with his peers and through social media, his older brother Costa Sardelis, an alumnus from the class of 2014, has organized local donation drop-off points at school, K-Mart, Montgomery Mall and Safeway. Sardelis’ close friend, junior Nick Gracyalny, was one individual who donated to the effort that would fill a truck 16 feet long with supplies for the Texans. “It felt like it was the right thing to do, and I am thankful for the hard work he and his family is putting in,” Gracyalny said.
Not alone in their efforts, his family received help in raising donations from close friends and relief organizations. They also received funds for a rental truck and fuel through a page on the website gofundme.com, where $1,400 was raised for the trip to Houston. “Just a few places that we organized with were the Texas Diaper Bank, small organizations and a shelter in Austin,” Sardelis said.
On the morning of Sept. 8, Sardelis’ older brother and his friends left with their truck full of supplies for Houston. Students like freshman Erin Chang are thankful for the members of their community who are taking the time out to bring aid down south. “My brother goes to school in Texas and some of his friends were affected by the storm,” Chang said, “so I think it’s really nice that everyone came together to try and help others.”
Throughout the community, the effects of Sardelis’ efforts have been evident as local awareness has been raised. His family has succeeded through their “Maryland Hurricane Harvey Relief Drive” Facebook page, and even have ended up spreading the word on popular Washington, D.C., radio station 98.7 WMZQ. “It feels good to help and know that I have an impact on the world,” Sardelis said.
Once they arrive in Texas, Sardelis’ brother and his friends have vowed to stay in the Houston area and join forces with food banks and relief organizations until their help is no longer needed.