PELP student Emma Matlock starts Maui wildfire drive at APSU
Donations accepted at Honors Commons through Nov. 18
Clarksville, TN (10/13/2023) — Emma Matlock, a freshman in Austin Peay State University's President's Emerging Leaders Program (PELP), is leading a drive to aid in the Maui wildfire relief efforts, and the campus community can donate essential resources through Nov. 18 at the Honors Commons.
Matlock has a personal connection to the devastation in Hawaii as she participated in a mission trip to Honolulu days before the fires began.
"I went on a mission trip in Hawaii a week before the fire started," Matlock said. "We got a text message from the preacher from their church saying that Maui just caught on fire and to please pray because a lot of people were leaving Maui to come to Honolulu."
The news hit home for Matlock because she has also experienced a massive natural disaster. Her hometown of Covington, Tennessee, was hit by an EF1 tornado, requiring extensive external aid to repair the damage.
"A lot of people's houses were completely destroyed," she said. "When we were in a time of need, people sent us stuff, and some people still don't know who it came from. I looked around and realized that instead of taking us a year like it should have to completely redo our town, it only took maybe six months."
Without donation drives and help from other communities, many people in Matlock's hometown would have been displaced and in need of essential resources. This show of humanity motivated Matlock to extend a helping hand to those in Maui who were displaced because of the fires.
Dr. Timothy Winters, the director of PELP, said he is particularly proud of Matlock's accomplishments and willingness to take on such responsibility.
"When a PELP student takes on a major project like this, it's always impressive," Winters said. "I'm very proud of students when they are willing to do this stuff. It's just typical of PELP students that they would go this far even as freshmen and take on a major project-collecting this stuff and shipping it halfway around the world. That's a PELP student."
Winters said he hopes Matlock's eagerness to help those in need will incentivize others in Austin Peay's PELP and Honors programs to do the same.
"I hope it demonstrates to them that you don't need to be a major corporation or a multimillionaire or anything else to help people," Winters said. "Small things make a big difference in people's lives. We always say, we can't save the world, but we sure as heck can make a difference in this one corner of it."
Matlock's determination to make a difference in the lives of the residents of Maui demonstrates the core values of a PELP student, exemplifying what it means to be a part of the program.
"[PELP students] continue to demonstrate the fundamental principle by which we define leadership, and that is that we're trying to help other people be better," Winters said. "Helping others run at full speed toward perfection, that's what we're about."
The drive is accepting canned food, clothing, gift card donations, pillows, blankets and other essential products.
Matlock hopes that the drive will provide the victims of the fires with a sense of belonging and ownership.
"[The donations are] something to bring them comfort because it's going to be theirs," she said. "Once they get them, no one's going to take that food away. No one's going to take their covers, so it's just something that they can go, 'OK, I may not have my stuff that I bought, but this is something that's mine and that I can hold on to and take back.'"
Matlock ultimately hopes that this drive will motivate future freshmen to take on a responsibility to give back to other communities.
"I just hope that other people have ideas like this as well," she said. "Even among the upcoming freshmen next year, I hope people will have more ideas like this."
The APSU campus can contribute to the drive by making donations in the donation box in the Honors Commons. The box will be inside the first set of doors, which is an area accessible to anyone on campus.