Bearcats Volunteer to Help with Flood Relief in Salem

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Last week Salem, Ore., gained national attention as heavy rain resulted in creeks flooding throughout the city. Willamette University student-athletes and athletic staff were among the first volunteers to help with flood relief throughout the community, as they put into action Willamette's motto:  "Not unto ourselves alone are we born."

The Bearcats were initially called into action on Thursday, Jan. 19, when Head Football Coach Glen Fowles and more than 20 players helped out at the Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Center. This important community resource, which provides a safe refuge and support to women and children who survive domestic and sexual violence, was being flooded. Residents and belongings had to be transferred to another location.

In addition, Fowles and the Bearcats also helped with sand-bagging efforts at the crisis center to limit the impact of the flooding.

Junior safety Cody Pastorino (Glenn, CA/Willows HS) was one of the first athletes to volunteer. Soon he was joined by many of his teammates.

"What motivated me the most was knowing that people needed assistance and I had the resources to be able to help," Pastorino said. "The crisis center needed bodies to fill and stack sandbags, as well as trucks to transport the sandbags across Salem. I was able to help with the transportation part using my pickup, as well as filling and stacking bags. It was an impressive sight how fast we responded and the amount of work that was put in by our team."

On, Friday, Jan. 20, several members of the Willamette Athletics staff, as well as athletes from various teams, helped with other flood-relief projects in Salem as part of Into the Streets. Much of the effort involved preparing sandbags for areas threatened by the rising water.

Into the Streets is a university service project scheduled each year as part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration.

President Steve Thorsett worked with Willamette's group of volunteers. He contributed to efforts at Bush's Pasture Park.

Coaches and athletic staff contributing to the relief effort included Athletic Director David Rigsby, Fowles, cross country and track and field Head Coach Matt McGuirk and Assistant Coach Brett Franz, and men's basketball Assistant Coach Michael Plank.

Among the student-athletes were Kaitlin Greene (Sr., Pullman, WA/Pullman HS) from cross country and track and field and Mckenzie Weinhold (Fr., El Dorado HS/U. of Nevada-Reno) from women's golf.

"I was one of the coordinators from the Office of Community Service Learning who helped organize Into the Streets," Greene said. "So, I was really appreciative and proud of our campus for being flexible with the changes made to the original program and for being so enthusiastic about providing aid where it was greatly needed.

"It's always great to see a diverse array of students, staff and faculty from many groups on campus doing service. While student-athletes and coaches are extremely dedicated to their sports, it is wonderful to witness the dedication they have to the community," Green added.

"I wanted to get involved in the community because of the great need for help," Weinhold said. "It was such a great feeling knowing that the work we did was going to help people save their homes. It was also good to get out and give back to the Salem community since they are a part of our Willamette community. We all had fun working together."

Head Football Coach Glen Fowles works with other volunteers to prepare sand bags to hold back rising water.

Head Football Coach Glen Fowles works with other volunteers to prepare sand bags to hold back rising water.

Assistant Men's Basketball Coach Michael Planks carries a sand bag during flood-relief efforts.

Assistant Men's Basketball Coach Michael Planks carries a sand bag during flood-relief efforts.