Houston was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey last month. Thousands of homes were flooded and families are struggling to clean up before they can even begin to think about rebuilding.
From headline stories about Mattress Mack, JJ Watt, and the Cajun Navy, to the smaller news stories that may go unnoticed, it's been amazing to see the city band together and come to each other's aid. In my neighborhood, we received 41.25" of rain in just over three days. While I was fortunate to stay dry, I had neighbors just blocks away with their homes entirely flooded.
Throughout our neighborhood, everyone was out in boats, canoes, kayaks, jet skis, and even floating air mattresses down the streets to help those who were flooded get to safety. This wasn't even after the hurricane left - this is while the rain was still falling. The picture below shows what our neighborhood (Meyerland/Westbury area of Houston) looked like Sunday morning (8/27).
DMC was fortunate in that our Houston based team dodged the worst of it and came away largely unscathed, but we've all been finding ways to help out. However, with the Labor Day holiday now past and Houston largely heading back to work, the available pool of volunteers has been dropping fast, so DMC decided to shut down for the day, fill some of the voids, and help where we could.
Helping Out with Harvey Relief Hub
We were able to connect with the Harvey Relief Hub, a local volunteer-led hub for hurricane assistance that is based near our Houston office. While we were unsure of what we would be doing, they were in need of volunteers and said they could find a place for us to help out. We arrived at their donation intake center/distribution center at 7:30 am on September 6th and were immediately put to work.
Harvey Relief Hub has had a steady stream of donations coming in and needed help sorting and distributing the items throughout the facility. They were using a warehouse to set up a temporary supply 'store' (everything was free) where people affected by the hurricane could come in and 'shop' for their needs. It was divided into sections: Cleaning Supplies, Food, Water, Toiletries, Diapers, Clothing, Household Items, etc.
While there were a large number of families that came in to find what they needed, other groups emailed or phoned in their needs and volunteers pulled together the supplies to either be delivered or picked up. This included other relief distribution centers that had specific needs like "Size 1 Diapers and Wipes" or "Bleach, Flat Shovels, and Mosquito Repellent."
What Else Can We Do?
In addition to relief supplies, the Harvey Relief Hub also works to connect volunteers with community members in need. Anyone can send in a request through their website or through email and the Relief Hub will try to match up volunteers. One request they received was from a family in the Barker Cypress area of Houston in need of assistance to help clean out their home. They had been flooded during the hurricane and were unable to return, because of the high waters, for over a week. Without knowing much more, we volunteered to help and headed west on I-10.
Tearing it Down to Build it Back Up
Upon arriving, it was easy to see the entire area had been flooded. Some buildings had been marked as "OK" by first responders as they had gone through the neighborhood making sure everyone was out. Most of the houses saw close to 3' of water and the home we arrived to clean out had 2-3' of water. However, we saw high water marks as high as 5' in some areas.
The couple who owned the home had lived there for nearly 40 years and never before had any water damage, but were now in the process of pulling out every piece of furniture they owned out of the house to start cleaning it out.
Our team of six was able to pretty quickly tear out all of the carpet and carpet pads from the remaining inch or two of standing water in the house. This allowed the last of the water to start draining out. With some of us removing doors, door frames, baseboards, and drywall while others pulled wheel barrows and large trash cans of debris out to the curb, we were able to tear the house down to the studs in a matter of hours.
While there was still an enormous amount of work to be done, even in this house, it did feel good to be able to help out a family that was left in such disarray. The best part of the day was taking a break from the demolition to drink some Gatorade and eat pizza with some Houstonians we had never before met. Even surrounded by 6 and 8-foot piles of drywall, furniture, and insulation, the family was able to take the time to share some stories and laughs with our team.
We couldn't have imagined that when we began our DMC Cares and gift matching initiatives it would lead us to help clean up after a historic hurricane and rainfall. The program is part of DMC's continued work to help qualified non-profit organizations that benefit the communities in which DMC employees live and work. While we couldn't prepare for the rain, we can prepare to help and hope to continue to do so.
How You Can Help
If you're looking to provide help, either as a company or an individual, consider donating to one of the many relief organizations doing great work around Houston. We can personally vouch that the Harvey Relief Hub is doing good things. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, Houston Foodbank, and J.J. Watt are all doing great things as well.