The devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey was unlike anything Leslie LaMacchia had ever seen.
The massive storm sustained winds of 130 mph during its landfall in August of 2017, dumping 51 inches of rain over Texas and setting a new record for rainfall from a single storm in the United States. CNN estimated that over 30,000 citizens required temporary shelter.
“After [Harvey] hit really hard on Sunday evening, I woke up the next morning and turned on ABC News, and saw that people were being plucked off highways and off roofs,” Leslie recalls. “I knew I had to do something.”
A native of Ogdensburg, New York, Leslie graduated from Monmouth University on a full basketball scholarship in 2001. Dedicated to fulfilling her lifelong dream of attending law school, she then relocated to Houston, where she attended South Texas College of Law. Now in her 13th year practicing law, Leslie deals with pharmaceutical and product liability litigation for Pulaski Law Firm PLLC.
“I like being able to help people,” Leslie says of her work. “I get satisfaction out of helping those who cannot help themselves and have been treated unfairly by big corporations.”
Having built a career on giving a voice to the voiceless, it’s easy to see why Leslie felt compelled to take action after Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas. Fighting through flooded roads and treacherous highways, Leslie made it a priority to get to the convention center that had been converted into a shelter just miles from her home in Houston.
The scene awaiting Leslie was one of complete chaos. Thousands of displaced families crammed into the facility, seeking a roof over their heads and day-to-day living supplies.
“Everything else went out the window for me,” Leslie explains, “and I did everything I could to give these people what they needed.”
Sorting through donations and distributing supplies to families in need, Leslie worked tirelessly at the shelter to provide safety and comfort to people who had lost everything. Doing so allowed her to develop meaningful, personal connections with the resilient residents of Houston, whose needs were growing far greater than the temporary relief the shelter could provide.
Leslie knew that if she wanted to make a real impact, she would need to think bigger—so she turned to social media.
Over Facebook Live on her personal account, Leslie introduced three displaced families directly from the shelter. She shared their stories across a digital network of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances, encouraging people to help in any small way that they could.
The response was overwhelming.
As the message spread and help poured in from all across the country, Leslie received donations in all shapes and sizes, from clothing and toiletries to household supplies and gift cards. Houston was once again flooded—this time with generosity.
“I wanted people to see who they were helping,” Leslie explains, noting that social media has become an effective platform for community outreach.
Word of Leslie’s efforts soon reached the East Coast, where her fellow Monmouth alumni quickly jumped into action. Friends of friends shared her posts and asked how they could help, and many even set up local donation drives geared toward providing aid to schools in Houston.
“The overwhelming support from Monmouth alumni has been mind-blowing,” Leslie remarks. “The community has a strong connection that really helped me through this process.”
As Houston continues to recover, Leslie remains dedicated to her efforts, hosting regular neighborhood fundraisers and urging others to get involved. The families that had once been struggling to get back on their feet are now paying it forward by passing out donations themselves and spreading kindness to other people in need.
As for Leslie, the former Hawk is grateful to have made such a tremendous impact on her city. She encourages others to follow in her footsteps by getting out into the community and asking someone if they need help.
“You don’t have to work for some big organization to do something meaningful,” Leslie says. “You just have to want to help. Talk to people, find out their stories, and learn what their needs are. Sometimes people just need a hug, and that can truly make all the difference.”
Faculty Member Influence
"Dr. Rekha Datta. At Monmouth, I double majored in Political Science and Communication and minored in Spanish. Dr. Datta was by far my biggest academic influencer. She was my Political Science advisor and overall mentor. She opened up my eyes to a lot of political and global issues. With my intent on going to law school, she was very instrumental in keeping me focused on topics and issues that would have an implication on my legal career. She also made sure I stayed on the right path in achieving my goals as a student. I still stay in touch with Dr. Datta to this day and I am forever grateful for her guidance, friendship and the opportunities she gave me. I am constantly reminded of her because she gifted me a Black’s Law Dictionary that sits on my office shelf. I also remember writing my Honors Thesis, 'Gender Equality In Politics and In Sports,' under the supervision of Dr. Datta. This thesis later became the basis for my final law school 80 page paper: 'Women In The Law.'"
How Monmouth helped me achieve my goals
"It's a smaller school with amazingly accessible faculty and staff. Professors understood what my demands were as a student-athlete and what my future goals were and they helped me with those outside of normal working hours. And I cannot say enough about the athletic staff. Not only my own coaches but also the coaches of some of the other sports coaches (and even the athletic department as a whole). Everyone really cared about the students at Monmouth. I still keep in touch with some of my professors and some on the athletic staff."
Collaborations that I've been involved with
"I tried to be involved in as many things as possible while being a student-athlete. And being an athlete took up a majority of my time. But it was very important to me to be well-rounded as student. I was involved in honor societies and academic clubs. Any collaborative projects that I can recall being part of were done through the political science department (ie: trip to United Nations, bringing politicians to campus to speak, etc)."
Why I'm proud of Monmouth
"#gohawks! For a smaller school, people have gone on to do big things. And the level of connectedness with former alumni is pretty special."
My favorite Monmouth memory
"Trips with my teammates. Games. Track meets. And anything that happened on the Great Lawn."