By John Denton
Sept. 6, 2017
ORLANDO – Houston will always hold a special place in the heart of D.J. Augustin for what the city did in 2005 when his family was forced to flee New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. Now, with Houston still in recovery mode following the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, the Orlando Magic point guard wanted to do whatever he could on Wednesday to help aid his adopted hometown in Southeast Texas.
Augustin, joined fellow Magic teammates Jonathan Isaac and Khem Birch and the coaching staff, led by head coach Frank Vogel, to prepare disaster relief kits for those still reeling in Houston from Hurricane Harvey. And with Hurricane Irma tearing through the Caribbean and threatening Florida, the Clean the World Foundation is working overtime to try and ready hygiene kits for those who might need assistance in the coming days.
“My family stayed around Houston during (Hurricane) Harvey and I’m from New Orleans and was a part of (Hurricane) Katrina, so to be able to give back and help families get back on their feet – I was once one of those families – it feels really good,’’ Augustin said on Wednesday as he packed supplies. “It was sad to see (what happened to Houston). I left New Orleans and (the people of Houston) took me in with open arms. To see what happened to them, it was hard to watch. I know a lot of families didn’t expect it and a lot of them lost a lot. But hopefully it will get back to normal soon.’’
No stranger to hurricanes, Augustin said his wife and three kids were set to board a plane on Wednesday night to fly back to Houston. Their trip is for two reasons: Augustin wants to visit family and friends that were stranded for some six days in Houston. Also, he wants to get his family out of harm’s way with a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane bearing down on Florida. Fully aware of the devastation that a major hurricane can produce, Augustin pleaded with people in Central Florida to heed the warnings of officials.
“My advice is, `Don’t take it lightly,’’’ Augustin warned. “The news is going to tell you certain things and other people are going to say certain things about it not being bad, but my advice is that if you want to get out, then get out (and evacuate).
“We made the decision to leave for our kid’s safety,’’ Augustin continued, referring to his fleeing back to Houston. “We didn’t want to be in a situation where we said, `Well, we should have gotten out (and didn’t).’’
Magic players packed pouches filled with shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer and sleeping masks on Wednesday. The goal was to pack between 5,000 and 10,000 kits on Wednesday and another 10,000 will be packed on Thursday and Friday. Some of those supplies will be sent to those in need in Houston, while others will be kept at the Clean the World headquarters in Orlando to ship out to those in need in Florida and the Caribbean.
“As soon as we saw what was going on there (in Houston) and all of the people who were struggling there, we wanted to make sure that we did something to help a little from afar,’’ said Vogel, who got the word out about the packing plan and had his full coaching staff on hand. “From a (Central Florida) community that has been involved with hurricanes and understands the needs to recover and utilize all of the resources available, (helping out) is part of what we do. Our (Magic) mission statement is to compete for championships, but it’s also to serve our community. It’s important for all of us to be here.’’
Isaac, the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA draft, lived for years in Fort Meyers, Fla., and he’s no stranger to the damage that hurricanes can do. He remembers enduring three hurricanes during his time in Florida and he said he feels badly for the struggles that the people of Houston are going through now.
“It really warms my heart seeing all of the people out there working and doing what they can to help out,’’ Isaac said of packing the disaster relief kits. “I really can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything in a span of a weekend (because of flooding).’’
The idea for the Clean the World Foundation came from Orlando native Shawn Seipler, the CEO and Founder of the organization. A businessman who travelled regularly for work, Seipler asked his hotel what they did with the used bars of soap and bathroom supplies after guests checked out of hotel and he was told they were thrown away. Seipler came up with the idea to recycle those products for those in need.
“I figured out that we’re throwing away a million bars of soap a day in hotels across the United States,’’ Seipler said. “I did some more research and figured out how to recycle soap. The real `ah-ha’ moment came when we found out that 9,000 children a day die to hygiene-related illnesses. We just had to get them soap and teach them how to wash their hands and save their lives. So we launched in a single-car garage – not too far from the Amway Center – with the whole idea that we were going to collect soap, recycle it and send it to children and families all over the world. Today, we’ve sent 40 million bars of soap to kids and families in 118 countries across the globe and we’ve diverted 15 million pounds of waste. And we have centers across the globe that are recycling soap to save lives.’’
Seipler said the plan to donate 50,000 disaster relief kits to Hurricane Harvey victims and storing thousands of others for people in Florida would not have been possible without the help of Magic players and coaches.
“This is incredible,’’ Seipler said. “We’re still working on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and we need volunteers and to have the Orlando Magic out here with professional players and see them helping clean the world and improve hygiene for children and families, it’s awesome.’’
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