San Antonio 'showing the love' for Harvey's victims

Response reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina in 2005

SAN ANTONIO – When new San Antonio resident Joshua Lupo heard Mayor Ron Nirenberg say, as Hurricane Harvey made landfall, that the Alamo City was a compassionate city, he was inspired to give blood for the first time.

“It sort of motivated me to come and do what I could, donate where I could, not only giving  blood but also giving money where possible,” Lupo said.

Lupo went to the University Hospital blood center on Monday, after living in San Antonio for only about a month.

Ron Fryar, the center’s manager, said although blood donations would be staying in San Antonio, “We’re also receiving a lot of patients from other hospitals that were in the affected areas.”

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center also issued a plea for more donations to help hospitals prepare for any patients headed there.

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Each City Council district field office around the city is serving as a drop-off location for needed donations such as water, canned goods, diapers and baby food, as well as pet supplies, that will be turned over to the San Antonio Food Bank.

With now Tropical Storm Harvey still dumping even more rain along the upper Texas coast, Roberto Trevino, who represents District 1 on City Council, said, “It’s not over and there’s so much more they’re going to be dealing with. We want to make sure we’re here to help.”

The outpouring is said to be reminiscent of how San Antonio helped after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 12 years ago.

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Kat Lieurance said what has befallen Houston nearly happened here in San Antonio.

“We dodged a bullet. So we might as well pitch in. Next time we fall, they’re going to be lifting us up,” Lieurance said, after donating a car trunk full of food and other items.

Michael Guerra, the chief development officer for the city of San Antonio, said he’s been amazed by the community’s response after natural disasters.

“We see our true spirit, right? Our culture is such a giving culture,” Guerra said.

“I’m so grateful for them. I’m so grateful,” said Rosa Aguirre, who was picking up donations for her nephew and his family whose mobile home near Port Aransas was destroyed by Harvey.

Aguirre said after first fleeing to Dallas and then Fort Worth, they arrived at her home.

“They don’t have anything and I can only offer what I have,” Aguirre said.

In addition to food, water and other basic necessities, Guerra stressed the need for new clothing and bedding.

Guerra said the problem with a used donation is: “You actually have to take time to clean it and get all the hygiene ready. There’s just not enough time in a time of natural disaster.”

He said nonprofits such as Goodwill Industries are better prepared to process used donations.

Near the Food Bank, more donations were pouring into Animal Care Services, which is caring for pets displaced by Harvey, whose owners sought shelter in San Antonio.

Heber Lefgren, ACS director, said at least 200 dogs and cats have arrived, and even more from affected communities such as Pleasanton and New Braunfels. He said a still unknown number of pets is expected out of Houston.

Lefgren said ACS and local animal advocacy groups helping with the relief effort need sheets, blankets, bedding, food and financial resources.

Lefgren said, if nothing else, he urges the public to do its part by restraining their pets so that ACS officers can focus on helping the evacuated animals.

He also hopes more people will adopt animals already at ACS to help make room for the new arrivals.

Among those donating to ACS was Olivia Ovalle, who was touched after seeing images of people being rescued in Houston along with their beloved pets.

“We love our animals. They’re just like our children. They’re precious to us, especially the elderly people,” Ovalle said.

“Sometimes, the pets are forgotten. They don’t know what to do. They get scared and that’s what we’re here for,” said Brenda Cardenas, who in addition to donating, is signing up as an ACS volunteer.

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