Task force assembles to aid athletic trainer

Athletic Trainer Mike Kleinstub has devoted his life to taking care of others, but after his Braeswood home sustained significant flood damage, a crew of nearly 100 volunteers seized the chance to lend a gloved hand to the athletic trainer who has always been there to take care of them.       

Gordon Center, Middle School history teacher and volunteer firefighter, referred to the event as a block cleaning party in his call-to-action post on the SJS Field Hockey Facebook page at 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 29. Sixteen hours later, members of almost every sports team arrived at Kleinstub’s door armed with hammers and crowbars. Behind them were coaches, parents,   alumni and administrators, all eager to help.

Parents brought lawn chairs, coolers, music and snacks for volunteers to take quick breaks during the first sunny day since Hurricane Harvey hit.

Aside from Kleinstub’s regular patients, generations of SJS families, alumni who graduated before Kleinstub came to the school and students that have never stepped foot in the training room extended their resources and physical labor to take part in the effort.  

Many soon realized that there were too many volunteers to contribute at Kleinstub’s, so lacrosse coaches David Cohn and Amanda Bencosme, Center, and other faculty members made their way down the block, knocking on doors to offer help. Within the next five hours, the group had assisted over three dozen homes on two flood-ravaged blocks.

Volunteers worked side by side for over five hours, moving wet furniture, carpets and books, and ripping out wooden floors.

As much as four feet of water inundated the homes, and most occupants had been stuck inside since the storm hit. A black-forest wood bar, inlaid with jade and emerald, was the single piece of furniture Kleinstub could salvage from his home, which his parents built in 1968.

“It was difficult watching all that stuff being carted out onto the sidewalk and thrown away. It’s as if everything you know in life is just gone,” Kleinstub said. “I know it’s just stuff, but it’s all my parents built, everything they had.”

Two days after Center’s initial post, Kleinstub contacted Marci Bahr, Head of Community Service, who sent a second task force to remove the last of the wet carpet and insulation. Two days later, a third group of parents showed up at Kleinstub’s house, ready to rip out sheetrock and finish the job.

“It was humbling to see how many members of our community really do believe about living a life of selfless service,” Center said. “Again and again I saw students seeking ways to patiently help complete strangers that had seen decades of personal history wiped away, and treating them in those most vulnerable moments with respect and dignity.”

Since 2005, Kleinstub has worked on the volunteer side of many community service projects, including the Costa Rica service trip, the holiday Bike Build, and other school-wide philanthropy work. Until Harvey, Kleinstub had never been on the receiving end of service.

“It was frightening, it was overwhelming, it was confusing, almost every emotion positive and negative that you can think of,” Kleinstub said. “I felt helpless.”

The SJS community service Instagram page was an outlet through which Bahr and the community service officers could disperse announcements about families in need. The account recruited more student volunteers for projects at faculty homes, including those of the Tallman and Arizpe families.

Kleinstub is currently staying with family, and numerous St. John’s families have reached out to provide additional help. Many have offered him a place to stay and assistance later on with home construction, remodeling and electrical repairs.

Senior Isabel Windham has been treated by Kleinstub for two ACL tears. She and her family didn’t think twice about helping the athletic trainer and his neighbors in their time of need.

“Kleinstub always says that everyone hates him, but judging by all the people that came by to help him, I think he is wrong about that one,” Windham said.