Heart for Texas looks to rally volunteers for Hurricane Harvey recovery

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Heart for Texas, a Tomball-based nonprofit, is working to bring families displaced by Hurricane Harvey home for the holidays. Although attention has shifted to other hurricane-ravaged coasts, numerous homes are still in need of repairs locally, Heart for Texas Coordinator Julie Akiri said.

“We want to move as many people home by Christmas as we can,” she said.

Fifteen months after Hurricane Harvey, 40 percent of damaged homes are yet to be restored, Akiri said.

“People don’t realize that families are living on concrete floors,” she said. “We have a family washing dishes in their bathtub because they don’t have a kitchen.”

Heart for Texas was formed by members of Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball and Trinity Klein Lutheran Church in Spring after Harvey’s landfall in August 2017. The nonprofit seeks to rebuild flood-damaged homes across the region with teams of volunteers and donated supplies, Disaster Relief Coordinator Laurie Holleway said.

“The entire heart behind this is connecting human resources with donated resources to get people back in their homes,” Holleway said.

As the most visible signs of storm damage are cleaned up, Holleway said it is difficult to see the damage that remains inside—walls in need of sheetrock, bare floors, missing appliances and entire first levels rendered useless.

“You can drive through the subdivisions, and the yards have been cleaned up. This type of damage becomes a private suffering,” Holleway said. “You can’t see the void of living space behind the door. … A lot of these people have had to find a new sense of normal, but they have no functional space.”

Despite the persisting needs, the stream of out-of-town volunteers is dwindling, Holleway said.

“We had an influx of people for about a year, but when we hit that one-year mark we saw it dramatically slow down,” she said. “It’s time for local volunteers to step up.”

In the days since Harvey, Heart for Texas has restored more than 316 homes with its partners with work ongoing in 100 more homes across the Greater Houston area, according to Heart for Texas data.

“We’re asking for local people to come out and help us get these families home,” Akiri said. “We’re also asking for businesses in the community to [adopt a home].”

In addition to rebuilding homes, Heart for Texas has also provided furniture sets to 120 families with funds from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Gallery Furniture and Salem Lutheran Church as well as bedding sets with funding from the Tomball Lions Club.

“I don’t know when we’ll be finished,” Holleway said. “These are families; these are people just like you and me. They never saw themselves in this situation. We just want to see them come home.”

Lend a hand

Heart for Texas is looking for volunteers to help rebuild flood-damaged homes across the Greater Houston area.

  • Sign up to volunteer in Houston at www.heartfortexas.com.
  • Adopt a home or choose a day to serve.
  • Donate gift cards to help furnish homes for families.
  • Call 832-510-7481 to request recovery assistance.
  • Make an appointment to donate gently used furniture.

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Anna Dembowski
Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Tomball and Magnolia communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.
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