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    Student-athletes help brighten holidays after Harvey

    When Tropical Storm Harvey flooded the Port Arthur home of J.R. Bermudes and his expecting-any-day wife Jesse in August, all their household belongings were ruined.

    Since the birth of son Michael on Sept. 19, the parents and three children aged 3 and under have had to make do in tough circumstances.

    “We have an air mattress that we all squeeze on,” Jesse Bermudes said.

    That changed this week, when student-athletes from the Lamar State College Port Arthur sports teams and other volunteers loaded new furniture, beds and mattresses onto the family’s flatbed trailer.

    “This is amazing,” J.R. Bermudes marveled. “Me and many others were in the same situation, I’m sure. This is a blessing way more than I would have expected. Many thanks and much gratitude to those who made this possible.”

    Howell Furniture donated several 18-wheeler truckloads of beds and other home furnishings sent by its nationwide vendors in relief effort after Harvey. United Way was asked to coordinate getting them to the people in need.

    Karen Do, Community Impact Director, said United Way of Mid and South-Jefferson County presented furniture Dec. 10-11 to 50 families that were chosen on the basis of applications submitted earlier this fall. United Ways in Beaumont and Orange County also spread Howell’s largesse throughout their communities.

    Besides LSCPA’s softball and basketball players, Catholic Charities and other agencies sent volunteers to help with the dispersal.

    “I’m just happy I’m not in a bad situation, and [that] I’m able to help others who are,” Seahawks basketball player Matej Gaspert said.

    “I like doing it, because it brings people together.”

    Brittany Baker, softball assistant coach at Lamar State College Port Arthur, is only three years away from her days as a college player. She said working in the community helps student-athletes stay grounded.

    “When they [players] want to complain about little things, days like this help put things in perspective,” Baker said. “The people coming here today lost everything.”

    The Seahawks athletic program at Lamar State College Port Arthur has been a big participant in community service under Director of Athletics Scott Street and head coaches Vance Edwards of softball and Lance Madison of men’s basketball.

    In the last school year, student-athletes from LSCPA performed more than 1,500 hours of community service.

    “We do it because we want to be out in the community and we want to give back,” Edwards said.

    In recent years, Seahawks players have assisted with elementary school reading programs, worked behind the scenes at food pantries, served Thanksgiving dinner at a retirement village and participated in numerous sports clinics for children.

    “We think it builds character and personal growth for our student-athletes,” Madison said.

    “I think it’s a student-athlete’s social responsibility to give back to the community. We appreciate the support we get from the community, and we want to give it back.”