Westmont Magazine A Hurricane of Emotion
Baseball Coach Brings Relief to the Gulf Coast
“It’s hard to let go.”
Westmont Baseball Coach Rob Crawford has been back in Santa Barbara for several weeks since his last trip to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, but he struggles with the suffering he’s seen. His cell phone displays a half dozen calls from New Orleans’ area code 504 since the previous night.
“It’s not on the front page as much,” Crawford says, “so it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind. It doesn’t impact us directly. But when you’re connected with these families and talking to them and talking to people who run shelters, you’re hearing all the things that aren’t being done.”
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall Aug. 29, Crawford watched the news coverage on TV. He knew he had to help.
“I know the Red Cross and others say to just donate money,” he said at the time, “but I believe we have a responsibility to respond.”
Others in the Santa Barbara community felt the same way. Crawford’s idea of driving alone with a van full of supplies quickly mushroomed. Twenty-one volunteers eventually took part in the week-long trip that began Sept. 10. They worked in Shreveport, La., and Houston, Texas, setting up tens of thousands of cots at shelters, relocating families and delivering supplies dropped off at sites in Santa Barbara.
Crawford took a second trip to the Gulf Coast at the end of September. He reconnected with 16 families, taking them shopping for clothes and food using money donated by Santa Barbarans. He is still shipping baby formula, diapers, clothes and other items at least twice a week to evacuees in Houston. But over the past month, he says, the community response has dwindled.
“Now you’re not hearing about the shelters as much,” Crawford says. “People are being put in hotels and using their FEMA vouchers, but that’s just temporary housing. The question still is, how do we take care of people long term? There are still so many gaps and the resources aren’t great enough at this point.”
Crawford has started a sponsorship program, One Family at a Time, to personalize the tragedy and connect local residents with families in Houston. He is focusing on the next step. “We can’t solve all the problems, but there will be people in need for a long time,” he says.