Rockport-Fulton still needs a lot of help almost nine months after Hurricane Harvey, but now, the town is making sure its volunteers have some fun during their stay. It's a new approach to volunteering, called 'Voluntourism.'
A group of students from Texas A&M University-Commerce traveled just over seven hours for the opportunity. Eric Lopez, a new University alum, said several people in the group graduated over the weekend. Now, just a few days later, they're lending a hand in the Harvey-hit community.
"We know that the city did get hit, and it did take a toll on the city, this hurricane, and we're just trying to give out, and help give back," Lopez said.
During the day, volunteers help out with tasks like repairing and demolishing homes, installing sheetrock and insulation, painting, and removing debris. When the workday is over, it's time to enjoy some activities the town has to offer, like touring the town on a trolley, visiting the parks and beaches or dining in at a nearby restaurant.
Amy Montgomery, the long-term recovery specialist for Rockport-Fulton says 'Voluntourism' is an effort between the Chamber of Commerce and the Volunteer Reception Center, and it's in full swing.
"We also want to give them an experience, that Rockport-Fulton is here, and we are going strong and becoming beautiful every day."
Montgomery adds, although much progress has been made, there is still a long road ahead. Roughly 400 volunteer work tasks are unfinished or haven't begun. The good news, since September, over 3,500 jobs have been completed over the span of 100,000 recorded volunteer hours.
However, volunteers, groups big or small, are still encouraged to lend a helping hand. Meanwhile, the group from the University says the long road trip and early-morning wake-up call was well worth it.
"It's just stuff money can't buy," Lopez said. "It makes you feel good and it's always good to help others."
Sarah Garay, another student adds, "Coming here, it's a really good experience because not only have I been helped, I'm also giving back. And I love giving back to others."
Volunteers are housed at the Volunteer Reception Center which holds about 300 people. The Center also provides three meals a day and showers.
Group housing is also available for $10 per night.
For more information about Voluntourism in Rockport, contact the Volunteer Reception Center at 361-729-3479. The Center is located at 811 Enterprise Blvd.
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