With more than half its 254 counties eligible to receive assistance under six federal disaster declarations in the past year, Texas remains in recovery from severe storms and flooding.
Recovery help has come from many sources, including three AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (A-DRT) programs: Texas Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps and Hoopa Tribal Civilian Community Corps. Teams from the programs stepped up to the plate this summer in Brazoria County, about 40 miles southwest of Houston. They mucked out more than 40 homes and cleared nearly 1,500 cubic yards of debris. With heat indices often over 105 degrees, the work was daunting.
So rewarding have their experiences been, team members got together recently to write down their impressions. They tell the story best:
“Crawling in the mud to pull insulation from underneath the homes is one of our favorite jobs. But we are happy to help the homeowner with whatever they need. Even if that means pulling every last nail from what is now just a skeleton of wall studs. Often using a variety of mismatched tools, we complete the job safely with full personal protection equipment including a Tyvek suit. Calluses we’ve developed melt away in the Texas heat and arms ache from the swinging of tools. What sounds like an army of Darth Vaders is actually the crew in respirators.”
“This is an emotional time for homeowners. Their lives have been forever affected, and potentially changed, by the disaster. All we can do is help them get back on their feet and provide other support, such as a listening ear or friendly conversation when needed. And sometimes that’s all a homeowner needs…”
“Sometimes an entire floor needs to be gutted, sometimes just the lower four feet. While it seems like a destructive process, it is a vital service that saves the homeowner thousands of dollars. This allows the homeowner to get right into repairing and rebuilding their home.
“Sometimes it's hard to remember that it's not about the houses, it's about the homeowners. The survivors of this traumatic event are scrambling to get their lives back together and it’s why we are here.
“A wonderful volunteer named Stacy brings us 10 gallons of ice cold water every day. Her hospitality is just one example of the generosity and appreciation we receive from the residents of Brazoria County. The hospitality began at our first project, the City Hall of Holiday Lakes. The employees kept a constant flow of cold water, snacks, and lunch for us during the 3 days we worked there. We were able to borrow brooms and bins from them with no questions asked, just thanks for the work we do. Several families have gotten their hands dirty helping us muck and gut their homes. The appreciation shown has made us feel part of the community and has made this experience more rewarding than we ever expected.”
“Our service does not go unnoticed. Even though they perhaps lost everything, they still find a way to say thank you for helping, especially in small communities that are often overlooked in disasters, be it through meals or prayers. People walk or drive up to us as we work and inquire about our business and give a heartfelt “thank you” for sacrificing our time for them and their community.”
“After completing one home, the homeowner wrote on a feedback survey that ‘there is a desire to stay that was not there before.’ And that is what makes the struggle worth it.”