Students organize spring break trip to assist with hurricane relief

Late in Aug. 2017, Hurricane Harvey struck the southern coast of the United States, flooding thousands of homes and causing large amounts of damage. Now, even though the hurricane is out of the news, two Cobbers have decided that it should not be out of mind.

Emma Endicott, co-commissioner of Campus Ministry Commission, and Lacy Tooker-Kirkevold, president of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) at Concordia, are leading a spring break trip to Houston to help with relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey. After an alum who lives in Texas reached out to the college, the Office of Ministry decided it was worth pursuing a service trip for Cobbers to provide a helping hand to those affected by the hurricane.

“We’re passionate about walking alongside those in need and letting them know they’re supported,” Endicott said.

The main goal of the trip is hurricane relief, but until the participants arrive at their destination it is unknown what exactly they will be doing there. Endicott explained that it is difficult to know what needs to be done months in advance, as the needs of people now will be different later as relief efforts continue. However, the leaders of the trip are in contact with leaders of Houston’s relief efforts, and they are confident that whatever they end up doing, it will be what is most needed.

“It’s up in the air right now,” Tooker-Kirkevold said. “We’ll work on disaster relief and response, and that could be clearing rubble, helping shelterswe’ll pitch in however we can with open arms.”

Deacon Jon Leiseth, minister for faith and spirituality in action, has a rough itinerary laid out for the beginning of the trip, but also said that exactly what the group will be doing to aid relief efforts is up to the organizations in Houston who best understand the needs of victims. He said the trip will start with a dinner with the Concordia Choir, who will be in Houston for a concert that Friday as part of their annual domestic tour, along with other service groups in Houston to listen to a keynote address by Rozella Haydée White.

“The keynote is to make us think about what is service, and privilege and how it shapes the way we might see and do service,” Leiseth said.

While the trip is not until late February, participants have already begun to get in the service mindset. A service retreat open to all campus organizations took place in Crookston on Jan. 19-20, and participants of the relief trip were welcome to take part. The retreat took place at the MICAH Project, which focuses on mindfulness and meditation. Leiseth and Tonya Purdy led students in exercises to deepen their understanding of service. According to Leiseth, the service retreat had three main goals.

“The goals are to gather a group passionate about service to reflect on service, deepen our capacity as a community to reflect on service, and provide tools for facilitators of reflection of service,” he said.

Tooker-Kirkevold added her thoughts on the service retreat.

“The goal is to learn about, discuss, and practice how we treat service and how we process it. It’s also to help us when we get back, to help us keep going afterwards and process how we felt,” she said.

As of now, six organizations have supported the trip in various ways: Better Together, Cru, Habitat for Humanity, Justice Journeys, MPIRG, and Omicron Delta Kappa. Dr. Dan Biebighauser, the faculty advisor for Habitat for Humanity, explained how Habitat has supported the trip.

“We helped with the planning by saying ‘Here’s what Habitat for Humanity does,’ because a relief trip is close to what we do as Habitat for Humanity,” he said. “We helped them prepare a budget and figure out transport, reserved the bus for them, and tried to help recruit people for the hurricane trip by publicizing it and sponsoring it.”

The leaders of the trip look forward to supporting the victims of the hurricane and are excited to give what they can to people in need.

“At the heart, this is about giving time in order to interact with situations we don’t necessarily experience first hand and creating meaningful connections,” Endicott said.

Leiseth agreed.

“This is who we are as Concordia College,” he said. “This is the embodiment of mission … the key verb [of the mission statement] is to influence the affairs of the world, and the deepest understanding of that influence is that we’re called into a relationship towards the common good. We’re called to work with our neighbors and care for each other.”

There are still open spots for the Hurricane Harvey relief trip. A $250 fee is required to participate, but full and partial fee assistance is available. To reserve a spot, contact Angela Boser at

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