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Rutgers community unites to help victims of Hurricane Harvey

<p>Members of the Rutgers community have come together over the course of the last few weeks to provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. From blood and pillow drives to groundbreaking hurricane research, the University working to maximize its relief effort.</p>

Members of the Rutgers community have come together over the course of the last few weeks to provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. From blood and pillow drives to groundbreaking hurricane research, the University working to maximize its relief effort.

Hurricane Harvey grew from a regenerated tropical depression over the Gulf of Mexico into a Category 4 hurricane in just 56 hours, according to the Weather Channel. The wind gusts from the storm topped 100 miles per hour in many locations, which lead to the widespread destruction of homes.

The flooding has caused one of the worst weather disasters in U.S. history, leaving many without houses and places to sleep. In response, the Rutgers community is taking action for those who were affected by the storm.

Some Rutgers faculty research and study the effects of natural and other disasters. 

Lee Clarke, a professor in the Department of Sociology, often consults with corporations, government agencies and research foundations. In his book "Worst Cases," Clarke looks at past disasters and what affect they have on society. 

In an interview, Clarke said “I’ve always been interested in how people think about and are related to their environments. Disasters are times when environments are precipitously degraded.” 

Clarke's research has explored other natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Currently, Clarke is researching how scientists negotiate the boundaries of science and politics, which focuses on scientists whose work predicted the great destruction that Katrina brought to New Orleans. 

Rutgers Athletics is helping the Hurricane Harvey efforts in their own way. They have collected new and gently-used clothing and shoes from fans before the past two football games at High Point Solutions Stadium, according to a public statement by Athletic Director Pat Hobbs. 

“Our heart goes out to the countless individuals who have suffered loss as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Everyone here in New Jersey understands full well the challenges those folks in Texas are dealing with. It is important that we come together to support the affected communities,” Hobbs said. 

Rutgers will partner with the University of Houston's athletics department to distribute the items.

While numerous members of the Rutgers community have coordinated blood drives and fundraisers independently, the administration itself is taking action through a relief effort called “Project Pillow.” Those running the effort are hoping students will donate new pillows for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Lisa S. Scott, an employee at the Rutgers Office of the Registrar, was one of the key organizers of “Project Pillow.” 

“Folks that have been affected by (Hurricane) Harvey are asking for a lot of different things, but not pillows," Scott said. "After a regular rough day, you just want your soft, comfy pillow. These people on the coast of Texas have seen devastation and are unable to do the same.”

Scott said “Project Pillow” is working with the mayor of Houston, where the pillows will be shipped to a warehouse and appropriately distributed.

“It’s important to pay it forward,” Scott said. “You never know when the shoe will be on the other foot. Everybody needs somebody.”

The pillows will be collected from Sept. 8 through Sept. 22. Scott said pillows must be new in the original packaging or sealed in a plastic bag and they can be dropped off at different locations throughout Rutgers—New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses.

“I am humbled by the fact that I am able to help and it allows me to reflect on life very differently. I have a home and a place to rest my head every night. These people struggling in Texas do not,” she said.

With Hurricane Irma hitting Florida, Scott said this is just the tip of the iceberg and that people are in desperate need of help.

“I pulled a team together overnight. It all happened so fast. I know that I cannot do this all myself and I am so excited to help out,” she said. “Houston faced devastation within hours and it’s still happening.”

Originally, only pillows were being accepted, but “Project Pillow” has reportedly paired with the Rutgers Federal Credit Union (RFCU), Scott said. People will soon be able to make cash donations with accounts handled by the RFCU. They will also set up a Project Pillow hash tag to spread the word around social media.

“It’s not just a pillow,” she said. “It’s a strong concept. I want these people to be cozy and have relaxation. I want them to have peace and the pillows represent that.”

Jillian Pastor is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. 

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