One of our mottos here at Aunt Bertha is a quote by Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
In that spirit and in honor of the New Year, we’re highlighting six of our direct service providers’ powerful missions and showcasing how they were there for their communities in 2017. These are the people whose work fuels ours, and we hope their stories inspire you as we begin 2018 with this special series.
“In 2018, we plan to complete over 200 Harvey homes, maybe even more, but we’re still going to continue to repair homes that were not impacted by Harvey, because we have people on our waiting list and we’re not going to let them go. We’re here for the long haul and will continue to take care of the populations we always have and serve the neighbors we always have.” —Christine Holland, Rebuilding Together Houston (Houston, TX)
In late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas’ east coast. In the Houston metropolitan area specifically, widespread flooding damaged property and took lives. Prior to the storm, Rebuilding Together Houston was already providing no-cost home repair to low-income senior citizens, U.S. military veterans, and people with disabilities. They focused predominantly on exteriors of homes to replace siding, ensure doors and windows worked properly, control water leaks, and improve accessibility by adding ramps/railing.
“When Harvey happened, we knew that we needed to widen our lane. Normally, we wouldn’t get involved in repairing a home until it was pretty much put back together and we would work on the outside, but we realized that that just wasn’t going to cut it here,” said Holland.
“It’s been very difficult for anyone impacted by Harvey to begin the process of recovery. For vulnerable populations, even more so. Very quickly, we got together to plan our response. We knew we needed to help our homeowners in a different kind of way, so we started our “Home After Harvey” program. We’re still focusing on the same neighbors that we were before, but now we’re working with contractors and volunteer teams to return the interior of the homes impacted by Harvey to a safe and livable condition.”
The New Orleans affiliate of Rebuilding Together came to Houston following the storm and took several days to teach the Houston staff how to muck and gut and take the house down to the studs. Now though, Rebuilding Together Houston is starting to move into the recovery phase, putting the homes back together. In 2017, the non-profit began recovery work in more than 25 homes, beginning to return them to a safe and livable condition. That number is estimated to be 200 or more in 2018.
When asked what the organization’s biggest “win” in 2017 was, Ms. Holland instantly said, “Neighbors helping neighbors all over this city, and coming from everywhere. There’s been an incredible outpouring of resources, funds, and building materials that gave our organization the confidence to jump in and help right away without worrying how we were going to fund it.”
She added, “There are thousands and thousands of Houstonians who have been impacted by Harvey and it’s going to take us years to get this done. Rebuilding Together Houston expects to be in the thick of this for four or five years. I think what’s going to get harder in the years ahead is the awareness of what’s happening here. Now, people are very engaged. Two years from now, we hope that’s the same story.”
How You Can Help
- Volunteer. Skilled volunteers are needed for carpentry, drywall, and painting, but Rebuilding Together Houston staff will also teach skills to anyone who is willing.
- Support rebuilding efforts with a financial donation.
By Emily Storozuk, Community Engagement Manager