~Alexandra Ferber, The Salvation Army of Eastern PA & DE’s Public Relations Manager, is in Houston, Texas assisting a national communications team with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. She is on the front lines, telling the stories of Houstonians impacted by Harvey and how The Salvation Army is helping them put their lives back together.
As my time in Houston comes to a close, I am overwhelmed with a range of emotions. The last two weeks have been inspiring, heartbreaking and exhausting. When I first got to Houston, driving across town it wasn’t obvious at first if the passing neighborhoods had endured any flooding. But as the days went by and people had the opportunity to start cleaning, mounds of trash started emerging along the streets – evidence of how Harvey had ruined their homes and impacted their lives.
Texas is hot in September. Houston is humid. Add flooding rains into that mix and you get mosquitoes. A lot of them. Many of the people who have been impacted by the hurricane did not have insurance and do not have the means to recover from this without assistance from FEMA. My colleagues meet people daily who are living in homes or trailers that are not inhabitable, but they have nowhere to go. No electricity, no water, no air conditioning, no bathroom. Mold is a huge concern. Some people have set up tents in their yards. Others are sleeping in their cars. Take into consideration the heat, humidity and mosquitoes and the situation is dire.
Our mobile feeding trucks (also called canteens) are dispatched across Greater Houston, focusing on the hardest hit communities, providing hurricane survivors with hot meals. Our Emotional and Spiritual Care Givers are canvassing neighborhoods, meeting with residents to assess their immediate and long-term needs and provide them with counseling and prayer.
The Salvation Army is making a difference.
The Salvation Army Incident Management Team (IMT) is its third week of operations, coordinating the recovery efforts in Greater Houston. In the days ahead, warehouses will be stocked and distribution centers identified to allow for the efficient delivery of needed supplies and support to Greater Houston families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Workers from across the United States and Canada continue to serve in Houston supporting efforts in the affected area. Here in Houston, as of September 12, 2017, The Salvation Army has provided:
- 161,227 meals
- 108,154 snacks
- 133,872 drinks
Emotional & Spiritual Care
- 7,924 spiritual care contacts
Donations Management and Distribution
- 5,109 comfort/hygiene kits (per kit)
- 3,356 infant supplies
- 641 blankets
- 1,547 cleanup Kits
- 2,441 clothing
- 3,065 food boxes
- 5,369 cases of water
There are so many stories of hope.
Sandra Kizzee’s daughter reached out to us on Facebook, saying their neighborhood was without power and had not had any hot meals. As social media specialist managing The Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Facebook page, I intercepted the message and worked to send a crew out to the address with meals and cleaning kits. I also directed three volunteer chefs from North Carolina, who were coming to town to cook free meals, with her address. Sandra and her neighbors were treated to a big cook-out. I came out to meet Sandra who was a very sweet woman and gave me a tour of her home which had been nearly destroyed by the floods. She had been rescued by a boat after calling a local TV station. When I told her I was from Philadelphia, she hugged me and cried.
Three weeks ago during the storm, I had been checking The Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Facebook, glued to Facebook video posts of a Salvation Army officer who had been going out in a boat to rescue members of the community. I met that man, Captain Ward, just a few hours after I landed in Houston. I shook his hand and told him that I had seen the videos and I was honored to meet him.
Today, a met a volunteer who works on a canteen. A grandmother and little girl have been getting food from their truck for a few days. Grateful for the hot meals, they made a card for the woman and gave it to her today.
Here is a story that a colleague shared with me that especially touched by heart:
Salvation Army Officer, Captain Sheldon Bungay, of Newfoundland, Canada, served as an Emotional and Spiritual Care (ESC) giver in Houston. For two weeks, he was dispatched with ESC teams to communities experiencing some of the worst impact from Hurricane Harvey to provide comfort, hope and prayer. One day in Houston he was especially missing his six year old son, Maxwell who had just started first grade.
“My mind was 3,000 miles away and I was feeling a little homesick even. So we were going about our routine (community outreach) and we had been in some hard hit areas that morning and the emotion of it was very real. We decided to go for lunch and we went to Chick Fil A. And while we were sitting there this little boy, probably the same age as my son, six or seven years old, right out of the blue, came up to me and said:
‘Thank you for saving my city, sir, may I have your autograph?’
I couldn’t even respond at first because my tears welled up. It was a pretty powerful moment for me, because the Lord was giving me the encouragement I needed in that moment. So I signed the receipt that he had taken from his mother’s meal. I signed my name on the back of it. I had an extra EDS (Emergency Disaster Services) hat in my backpack and so I took it out and put it on his head and said, ‘You can have this one to keep.’ He thought that was the best thing ever.’
Hurricane Season 2017 (Hurricanes Harvey and Irma) is The Salvation Army’s largest natural disaster response to date. To all of you who have donated to The Salvation Army’s disaster relief efforts, I can tell you first-hand that your support is making a difference.
I have never been so proud to work for an organization and alongside such talented, dedicated and passionate professionals and volunteers. I am truly honored and humbled for the opportunity to participate in the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
I fly back to Philadelphia in the morning, but Houston will forever hold a special place in my heart.