Submitted by Clairissa Cooper
Flooding from Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit Texas on August 25, 2017, forced an estimated 39,000 people out of their homes and into shelters.
The damage and sheer number of people affected were alarming, but once the flood waters began to recede, hundreds of local residents came to the rescue.
Over 500 residents from Flower Mound, Lewisville, Lantana, Highland Village and Corinth heeded the call for help as part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volunteer service organization called Mormon Helping Hands.
Residents organized supplies, including masks, generators, wheelbarrows, and other tools needed to perform demolition on drywall, insulation and flooring before mold took hold on the homes.
“We had a very short window of time and great urgency to get down there and help,” said Kip Twitchell, one of the Flower Mound team leaders. “We have about a month to save a home before it’s lost to mold. Once we take out the drywall and insulation, the home is on course to drying out and recovery.”
Cars, trucks, and trailers with supplies lined the freeways one-by-one, headed south toward Houston. Team leaders assessed needs and focused on assisting homeowners in the Orange and Beaumont areas of Texas. Their group was part of more than 30,000 members of the group that went down to the Houston area over the course of three weekends in September.
The crews removed furniture and wet personal items, including wet clothing. They tore out trim work and door frames, opened windows, tore out drywall, paneling and kitchen cabinets and then removed the debris using wheelbarrows and giant plastic sleds towed by ropes.
Travis and Heather Wade of Flower Mound and two of their oldest children were part of a group of 12 that went down to Orange, Texas and assisted with mucking out two homes.
“To be a small part of this huge effort was amazing and humbling. I left tired but I also left with a tangible reminder of what matters most,” said Heather Wade. “I witnessed a small piece of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey while working in Orange, Texas, but most importantly, I witnessed the people working together as volunteers and homeowners.”
Volunteers were asked to be totally self-sufficient during their time in the Houston area. Crews brought in their own food, water and personal items needed to avoid taking away supplies from those in need. They slept in high school gyms and showered in the locker rooms to prepare for the next day of work.
“I saw great men and women do great things in the service of others,” said Alan Bishop of Lake Dallas. “It was very humbling. The devastation was unimaginable. I saw thousands of people’s lives, gutted and sitting on a curb, house after house.”
In total, 508 local volunteers, including over 200 teenagers assisted with the cleanup efforts. That added up to 5,567 man hours and 103 homes cleaned out, including one chapel for the Church of Christ.
“Our volunteer efforts have gotten people to the point where they now can begin to rebuild, which will require a skilled and specialized work force,” said Jon Cannon, Lewisville Texas Stake President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“It was heartbreaking to see all of their belongings piled up as trash,” said Rebekah Callahan of Flower Mound. “The least we could do was help these homeowners prepare their homes to be rebuilt and give them some relief from their overwhelming stress.”