Austin groups rally to support Harvey victims


Highlights

Nonprofits and communities are ramping up Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey victims will continue for months.

From collecting toiletries to providing crisis counseling, local nonprofit groups this week are stepping up their Hurricane Harvey relief efforts to meet the needs of an influx of survivors who face a long road to recovery.

“We’re just at the beginning of it all,” said Daniel Geraci, founder and executive director of the Austin Disaster Relief Network.

As of Sunday, the organization’s call center had received more than 500 calls both from evacuees from the Gulf Coast and from people interested in volunteering. The network, which works with more than 175 churches in the Austin area, has sent teams of trained volunteers to area shelters to help with emotional and spiritual care.

“The goal right now is to pull them out of their trauma,” Geraci said. So far, the network has helped more than 100 families affected by flooding.

At its Hope Family Thrift Store (1122 E. 51st St.), donations such as inflatable mattresses, new socks and undergarments are being accepted for evacuees. The network has also distributed gift cards along with items such as toys, coloring books and hygiene kits.

But as the group works on addressing immediate needs, it is also looking to the future. Pairing survivor families with local families in the network’s Disaster Relief Shepherd program will be important to guide evacuees through the recovery process, Geraci said. These volunteers act as liaisons for the families to navigate resources such as FEMA funds.

“Putting people around others with clear minds who can help them out builds resiliency,” Geraci said.

PHOTOS: Harvey hits Houston with historic flooding

While some organizations have aided Austin-area evacuees, other organizations such as the Salvation Army have deployed local volunteers to the Texas Gulf Coast. On Sunday, a team of volunteers with a fleet of mobile kitchens arrived at a Victoria shelter and served about 750 meals. “This disaster relief will take months and possibly years to get through,” Andrew Kelly, the Salvation Army’s Austin area commander, said in a Facebook video message. “The Salvation Army will be there to provide anything we can from meals, shelter, cleanup kits, emotional and spiritual care, but it will take financial assistance for us because it’ll be very costly.”

For Circle C resident Natalie Kifer, watching some horrific flooding scenes on television all weekend motivated her to help. She’s rallying her neighbors to collect supplies to send to the coastal cities.

“Watching the devastation from Austin, you just feel helpless,” she said. Through a friend, she learned about KWCares, a nonprofit that helps Keller Williams associates and their families who face hardships as a result of an emergency. The KWCares Disaster Response Team will be sending 18-wheelers with supplies as soon as roads to the Gulf Coast are safe.

RELATED: CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE IN PORT ARANSAS

“As of (Monday) morning, we know 168 Keller Williams associates have so far had their home flood in some degree by the storm,” said Darryl Frost, Keller Williams spokesman. “We’re still assessing and updating these numbers today.”

In the meantime, Kifer was busy Monday collecting everything from tools to diapers for the survivors.

At one of Austin’s biggest catering companies, Royal Fig Catering, a team devised a whirlwind relief effort Sunday night to raise money to purchase supplies needed to cook hot meals for as many coastal residents as they could. Several of their vendors also donated food, which enabled the company to head to Victoria on Monday. Another trip to cook meals for a Houston children’s hospital is in the works, according to owner Kristin Stacy.

“Rebuilding a life and healing comes through comfort, connection and courage,” said YWCA Greater Austin Executive Director Ángela-Jo Touza-Medina. The organization is offering free support group and crisis counseling for Harvey victims.

“Being displaced from your home and possessions, separated from your family and friends, and confronting an uncertain future is difficult,” she said.

Later this week, the Texas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, the all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, will also lend a hand. Members will fly over the Texas Gulf Coast and take aerial photos of the flooded areas. The photographs can aid the state in everything from assessing the damage to checking areas where rescues might be needed.

“Everyone wants to help,” said Lt. Col. Johanna Oliva Augustine, the Texas Wing’s public information officer. “We’re just doing it in a different way.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Chance of storms again Monday, but rest of week looks clear
Chance of storms again Monday, but rest of week looks clear

There’s a slight chance the Austin area could see more thunderstorms again Monday, but forecasters say weather for the rest of the week will look nothing like it did Sunday. The weekend wrapped up with showers and thunderstorms developing throughout the day Sunday and a warning that rain levels could reach 5 inches in parts of Travis County....
SANTA FE SCHOOL SHOOTING: Dan Patrick renews call to arm more teachers
SANTA FE SCHOOL SHOOTING: Dan Patrick renews call to arm more teachers

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Sunday blamed the Santa Fe High School shooting on “a violent culture where we devalue life,” citing movies and video games, bullying on social media, and abortion. He called for arming teachers as part of the militia envisioned by the Second Amendment. Patrick’s remarks on ABC’s “This Week&rdquo...
Downtown Austin’s ‘Jenga tower’ marks milestone
Downtown Austin’s ‘Jenga tower’ marks milestone

The Independent, a residential high-rise under construction in downtown Austin, has reached its peak height — a milestone for the 58-story building nicknamed the “Jenga tower.” Now standing at its full height of 685 feet, a topping-out ceremony Sunday marks the Independent’s official debut as the tallest building in Austin,...
Texas Digest: Gunfire near Dallas police station prompts more security

DALLAS Gunfire reported near police station Dallas police officials have advised officers to increase security outside the city’s police stations after someone in a vehicle opened fire near a station. Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell told The Dallas Morning News someone was shooting late Saturday night near the city’s Central Division station...
Accused Santa Fe shooter won't get death penalty -- and could get paroled someday 
Accused Santa Fe shooter won't get death penalty -- and could get paroled someday 

Even though Dimitrios Pagourtzis was charged as an adult in the mass shooting at a southeastern Texas high school Friday, he will not face the death penalty and could even be eligible for parole someday, the Houston Chronicle reported. Pagourtzis, 17, a high school junior, admitted to the shootings that killed 10 and wounded 13, according to court...
More Stories