When disaster strikes, communities come together


When disaster strikes, communities come together

Hurricane Harvey made landfall August 25, bringing record-breaking rainfall, 130 mph winds and causing an estimated $75 billion in damage. Tragically, at least 70 deaths have been attributed to the storm and resulting floods and surges. Experts are referring to this death toll as “astoundingly low”, but for the families and communities that are now mourning those victims, the sense of grief will be no less palpable.

It is often said “disasters bring out the best and worst in mankind.” It is not known who coined the phrase or where their pessimism sprang from, but in Texas things are different. Peter King, an American Red Cross volunteer from Philadelphia who has been on the frontline of the relief effort in Victoria County, described the community spirit as “neighbor helping neighbor...the general mood down here is people are really looking out for each other and helping each other”. As flood waters started to rise, volunteer civilians took to powered boats and kayaks in search of the vulnerable and stranded — an instinctive act of altruism by communities that care for their people.

Disaster relief is a marathon, not a sprint. The destruction of property and consumable goods has left people without food, shelter and clean water. Churches, as well as non-profit organizations and local businesses promptly stepped in to help those in need, and bring together a community reeling from the physical, emotional and financial damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD Victoria County) — a voluntary organization formed by several charitable nonprofits and churches — has been meeting daily since the start of the rescue and recovery mission, coordinating efforts to meet the needs of local communities. In Victoria County relief efforts are being aided by Victoria County Interfaith Disaster Response, a nonprofit formed by faith organizations and volunteer groups in the aftermath of the 1998 floods, and Pastor Ada Hooker of the Victory Christian Life Center offered the church premises as a temporary shelter for the displaced.

The Food Bank of the Golden Crescent has been providing food and water for those in need, and local Texan supermarket chain H-E-B has established three mobile kitchens, two water tankers and a Disaster Relief Center providing support for victims. In addition, local restaurants such as Limon BBQ and Guerilla Gourmet’s chef James Canter (with help from the folks at San Antonio’s Chef Cooperatives) have been serving hot prepared food to lines of grateful Texans. In Canter’s own words, “if someone needs food in an emergency, just knock on the door and we’ll get you some”.

Disasters like Harvey can break buildings, trees, and highways but — as the people of Texas have shown — can never contend with the resilience of the human spirit. Perhaps Steve Paprocki of Chef Cooperatives summed it up best:

“It's great to see Texans helping Texans; it’s what we do.”

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