Hurricane Harvey had just hit LaBelle, the Gulf Coast town where Hannah Olowokere's ('17) father lives. He was safe and his house, on stilts, was OK. But while she was visiting him, she talked to his next-door neighbor, Miss Debbie, whose home was completely destroyed. Miss Debbie didn't have any insurance or money.
"I saw her in the street and she was just crying," Olowokere says. "I told her I would help."
Olowokere, who works as a wedding photographer in Dallas, already had been organizing a supply drive for the 2,200-population community of nearby Fannett, her hometown about 15 miles southwest of Beaumont. She set up an Amazon wish list that included rebuilding and home supplies, eventually raising nearly $7,000.
Service had been ingrained in her as a journalism student at UNT. She participated in The Big Event and Make A Difference Day all four years. She also was a member of UNICEF, UNT Serves and Communities In Schools North Texas. And she participated in Alternative Spring Break for three years -- once to work with the homeless in San Antonio and twice to learn about the civil rights movement and human rights in Selma, Ala.
"Both places changed my life," she says, noting she visits Selma once a year. "I have a community there now. They are my family."
After collecting the supplies, which were sent to a Dallas business, Olowokere and her husband delivered them in a donated van to Grace Community, the church in Fannett where her brother is a member, for distribution. As a result, Miss Debbie received a queen-sized mattress, new bedding, a power drill and a Shop-Vac.
"She cried on the phone and told me it was a huge help to her," Olowokere says, adding how special it was to help the communities that she spent so much of her life in. "I just did what we are called to do as human beings. It meant more to me seeing how many people pulled together to help."