UGA Public Service and Outreach units stepped up to provide lodging, food, water and other supplies for families in need during Hurricane Irma.

The Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel provided a home-away-from-home for evacuees and their pets fleeing South Georgia and Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma, as well as some local students and residents who needed temporary shelter.

The hotel also housed employees who worked at the hotel during the storm so that they would not risk their safety driving to and from the campus.

Monday night was the busiest, with 168 of the 190 available hotel rooms occupied. On Sunday night, 103 rooms were filled. By Tuesday night, only 63 rooms were occupied.

As many as 30 dogs and cats accompanied their families, including two Bullmastiffs, which typically weigh more than 100 pounds. Hotel staff brought in games and toys to keep the several dozen children at the hotel entertained during their stay.

The hotel originally was fully booked for a conference from Sunday-Tuesday. When conference organizers cancelled on Friday, Georgia Center employees quickly reached out through social media to let displaced families know that rooms were available even though most Athens area hotels were already full.

UGA students involved in Campus Kitchen UGA launched a special operation over the weekend to provide food to clients who were at risk of being stranded by the weather without sufficient food.

Of the 40 families regularly served by Campus Kitchen, 17 (38 people, half of them children) were identified as needing non-perishable food, non-electric can openers, flashlights and clean drinking water. Students and staff used social media to solicit supplies, which they collected and distributed Sunday afternoon.

Donations came from Campus View Church of Christ, residents in the Five Points neighborhood of Athens and UGA students. Campus Kitchen volunteers delivered enough water, cans of fruits, proteins and vegetables to the families to last two days. They also distributed 20 flashlights and eight can openers.

Campus Kitchen, run through the Office of Service-Learning, provides weekly meals to older adults in the Athens area, including grandparents raising grandchildren and Meals on Wheels participants.

“I am proud that our Public Service and Outreach units came forward to help people who needed shelter, food and water during the storm,” said Laura Meadows, interim vice president for Public Service and Outreach at UGA. “I am gratified that we have a community that is willing to step in and help when emergencies arise.


PHOTO: From left, UGA undergraduate Kathryn Ayers, UGA graduate student Carson Dann, and Kaeli Evans, an Americorps VISTA working for the Office of Service-Learning, prepare bags of donated food to deliver to older adults and families in the Athens area.