Golf Trip Becomes Aid Mission in Florida

Alumni volunteer for hurricane relief

For 26 years, Paul Speaker ’86 has met up with his friends from Villanova for an annual golf outing, but this year the group traded sand wedges for shovels as they brought hurricane relief to communities in need.

Speaker began his mission after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Gassing up a U-Haul filled with generators and tools, he drove to Houston and organized a relief effort that cleaned up 22 homes and a community center, focusing on helping the elderly, the infirm and those who did not have insurance. Speaker also connected with several inmates from a local prison who were helping the community effort. 

Then Hurricane Irma reached Florida. 

Hurricane relief in Florida

“While in Texas I emailed my Villanova friends and asked them to come join me in Florida, if they were up to it. And they all responded that they were,” Speaker says. 

The group of nine Villanovans headed South. A local sheriff’s department in Florida connected them to the executive director of Pigeon Key Marine Science Foundation, a camp on a private five-acre key that teaches disadvantaged children about the ecosystem and marine life.

“The place looked run over,” says Chuck Calhoun ’85. “There were four employees working with no power, no nothing.” 

The Villanova crew used chain saws to clear trees that had cut off access to buildings. The staff estimated that the group’s effort put them ahead of recovery efforts by two and a half months.

 

Hurricane relief in Florida

“We loved every minute of it,” says Calhoun. “And we would do it all over again."

The Villanova crew also visited a distribution center to hand out supplies and water, and helped a family on Marathon Key who owned a home and a restaurant that were damaged. 

“The clean out was as bad as you could imagine,” says Speaker. “We lugged out ovens, refrigerators, preparation stations, tables and chairs. We were there all day.” 

The effort gave the owner new hope. “He said that before the Villanova crew had gotten there he was really thinking about just walking away,” Speaker says. 

With relief efforts ongoing, Speaker plans to continue his mission by volunteering in Puerto Rico.