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Bandera Courier
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2017-09-28

Helping Hand in Houston-Part 2

Judith Pannebaker

“We had to scramble to get this thing together,” said Laura White, assistant director of Bandera’s Helping Hand Crisis Center. “We thought we’d have more time to prepare, but on Thursday, Sept. 7, we got a call from our Houston contact. We learned the water had already receded and help was really needed. Our rescue effort had to come together fast.”
White and Helping Hand Executive Director Jesse Parks, along with four other volunteers spent the rest of that day accumulating food and other supplies for their journey to Houston to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The next morning they gathered at 1116 12th St. to pack the trailer. “And, by 10 a.m., we were on the road,” Parks said, towing a trailer filled with bulk, pre-cooked food; medical and school supplies; bug spray; fans; shop vacs; mops and brooms; power washers; and spraying rigs, along with several generators because there was no power.
“We rolled into the Houston area about 1 p.m., and, at first, we didn’t see any signs of flooding,” Parks said. “But, when we got to the area of the Addicks dam and reservoir, everything changed. It looked like a war zone.”
“All we could see were fields of water,” White added.
Earlier, personnel with the United States Army Corps of Engineers had executed a controlled release of water from the overfilled Barker and Addicks reservoirs. Although the release prevented the collapse of the dams, which would have led to flooding in downtown Houston, it created additional problems nearby.
“All houses in the neighborhoods had their contents in huge piles in the front yards. We have photos and videos that show the horrible situation,” Parks said.
She continued, “When we finally arrived in the Bear Creek subdivision, the scene was the same. But, because flood waters had receded two days earlier, the debris included not only furniture, but also ruined sheetrock. Cleanup had already started.”
The Bandera volunteers, including a three-man work crew from Hammerhead Construction, hit the ground running.
“After we pulled the rest of the water-soaked sheetrock out of the home, we power washed the entire interior,” Parks explained, adding, “Then we sprayed everything with a disinfectant to prevent mold from forming.”
After cleaning the first house, they ventured into the neighborhood looking for other people to assist. “We’d go from house to house, asking, ‘What can we do to help you? What do you need?’” Parks said.
One couple had no one to assist them, so the Hammerhead Construction crew, serving as the couple’s surrogate “family,” cleaned their house.
“The hand-working crew was amazing,” Parks said. “We’re so thankful they came with us.”
That night, the Bandera contingent slept on air mattresses in an empty rental house located in one of the few neighborhoods that had not been flooded.
“Let me tell you,” Parks said, “I’m getting too old to sleep on the floor. I think that affected me more than working hard all day.”
Check next week’s column for the third part of Helping Hand volunteers’ Good Samaritan sojourn in Houston.