On Saturday, August 26, Hurricane Harvey made its way to the Houston area and began a deluge of rain and wind that would continue for days as it refused to move on. Those of us who didn’t evacuate could only sit in our homes, staying up into the early hours to monitor water levels and taking shelter during the numerous tornado warnings. Those who did evacuate could only wait and watch, unsure of what they would come home to.
When the clouds finally parted, the long-awaited sunshine revealed the devastation brought on by what is being called the worst flooding in U.S. history. Most of us took to social media to find our friends and neighbors literally crying to be rescued from their flooding homes.
The first thing on the mind of people throughout the city was, “How can I help?”
one associate’s story
We live in Clear Lake, so we’re used to being impacted by hurricanes. My husband and I thought for sure that after days of tornado warnings and pounding rain, we’d end up with at least a few inches of water in our house. For whatever reason, we came through the entire storm unscathed. Our kids and house were safe, we never lost power, and we had plenty of food and water.
But when I turned on the news and scrolled through social media, my heart sank. Just a few miles from us, friends I had known for years were hanging towels out of their second story windows to signal their need for rescue, while the water in their homes continued to rise.
A friend from church who was nine months pregnant called out through Facebook for prayers and help. She was due the next day, but lives in Dickinson where all of the streets had transformed into lakes overnight. It took 10 hours for rescue boats to reach her and her family, which includes her husband, two daughters under five and a large dog. They were all brought to a safe area where a garbage truck was able to escort them to hospital.
As I sat watching my friends and the rest of Houston suffer, I knew I had to do something and so did my small church, which converted into a donation center seemingly overnight. At the first opportunity, I grabbed my three kids and we headed over to the church, not knowing if the roads would be passable.
There were only a few of us, but we spent hours sifting through mountains of clothing donations. I went back the next day, and the next. It was hard work. Long work. But I was determined to keep going because there were a ton of donations and a ton of people who needed help. Even now, the church still resembles a store and is operating as one. People affected by the hurricane can come in to get whatever supplies they need, completely free of charge and with no questions asked.
When Thursday came, a resale shop that is loosely affiliated with our church began cleanup. I had volunteered there and shopped there numerous times. The store existed for the sole purpose of supporting Builders Without Borders. But now it was gone. The one-story building had been covered almost to the roof by Clear Creek rising and flooding the streets surrounding it. Inches of mud covered the parking lot and floor of the shop. Water had reached four to five feet inside the store. Hundreds of pieces of clothing, numerous pieces of furniture and dozens of pieces of housewares that could have been sold to support an important cause were destroyed.
While stronger volunteers spent the hot, humid day mucking out the shop, I and a few others sloshed through the mud, dripping with sweat, to clean out the piles of wet, mildewed clothing. And not one us complained. We couldn’t NOT help. Because we knew that we had been blessed in order to be a blessing to others.
The Houston area is swarming with heartfelt stories like this one. The entire world is watching and witnessing how our city comes together even in the toughest times. And our Stage Stores associates are in the thick of it. Houston is our headquarters. Hundreds of our associates have been affected by the storm. Our company is honored to lend a helping hand to our neighbors, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes. We’re Houston strong!