Friday, August 25, at 10pm, Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in Texas.
Sunday, August 27, Keri Henry and Adam Brackman begin organizing citizen boat rescues.
A MOM TAKES CHARGE
By Local Houstonian and Mom Keri Henry
When the devastation of Hurricane Harvey began rearing its ugly head, I immediately wanted to do something to help. I started as a one-man-show gathering information from victims and trying to coordinate boat rescues on Sunday (August 27). I started off with a handwritten system of about 20 victims and two boats in the Meyerland, Braeswood and Bellaire neighborhoods. One of the names on my “boater list” was ADAM BRACKMAN of Axelrad Beer Garden.
Adam was dispatched to save my good friend’s grandmother, Betty Gorme. From the moment I first spoke with Adam, I knew he was in it for the long haul. With help from another local Houstonian, JENNI REBECCA STEPHENSON (Director at Asia Society Texas), we started using tools such as Facebook (FB) neighborhood groups, the Zello app, www.houstonharveyrescue.com, public FB posts, FB messaging, tagging, sharing, etc. These tools helped us connect and share vital information between victims and boaters, which enabled ou boaters to jump in and rescue those in need.
Over the span of three days, we recruited an administrative team from friends offering to help, and my handwritten system turned into a spreadsheet. We then merged with another group led by local attorney Thomas (Tommy) J. Holmes III, and the next thing you know, we had an active Google doc form that was sent to hundreds of people. We received a rescue request or a boat volunteer request every few minutes, over the span of three days – moving from individual addresses, to apartment complexes, to neighborhoods and then expanding to entire cities. In the end, Jenni Rebecca, Adam, Tommy and I were working alongside Cajun Navy members, civilian boaters and law enforcement, and were operating 39 boat teams, each consisting of 1–4 boats per team.
Our group also formed a small ground team led by local Houstonians JONATHAN HONEFENGER of Virtuoso Wine and Spirits and LAUREN BARRASH of The Wave Houston, to transport people from boats to shelters. JONATHAN BEITLER of Barrel House Media was my contact for shelters, and then he turned into a vital resource for food donations. Their team at Midtown Kitchen Collective fed thousands of Houstonians.
In a much needed post-rescue/pre-recovery gathering at Axelrad, the growing network of volunteer hubs got me in touch with the Director of Supplies for the Cajun Navy and the President of the Cajun Army. I am currently working to get them the supplies they need in order to help various communities over the next 3–6 months.
Houstonians ADAM WRIGHT and BRODY CHAPMAN of SpindleTap Brewery and Lightning Logistics have been so kind to receive donations for the Cajun Navy, and for anyone else in need. These folks, along with many other organizations, including The Giving Hub operated by AIMEE WOODALL of The Black Sheep Agency and CARLA VALENCIA of LOCAL Houston Magazine, have helped get donations dispatched all over Houston and surrounding areas. People from all over the US came to help in these rescue and recovery efforts, and continue to come to Texas several weeks later to help.
My life has been forever changed by this. The love for my city has exploded, and these new friendships will be lifelong. I am so proud to call Houston my home.
Monday, August 28, online Google form-based system put in place for rescue operations.
Monday, August 28, Anthony Rathbun heads to Rockport with the Humane Society.
SAVING THE ANIMALS
By Anthony Rathbun | Photography by Anthony Rathbun
Hurricane Harvey had barely been in Houston for 24 hours when emails first came in from an associate at The Associated Press (AP). They put me on standby to document a HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES (HSUS) Animal Rescue Team (ART) engaging in animal rescue operations near Texas City.
With no distinct address ahead and no confirmed lodging, details came as I drove South Monday. The fury of the storm already hit Rockport and Port Aransas. The Galveston and Houston areas’ consistent rain had many regions along my drive flooded or flooding. I had a full tank of gas and an extra can, a non-perishable food stash, protective clothing, knee-high hunting boots, camera, computer and 6.9 inches of vehicle ground clearance.
My drive was 4.5 hours from The Heights to a Kemah hotel. My main HSUS contact booked me in one of the last rooms available. I was to rendezvous with the HSUS ART at 8am the next day. We’d be travelling to Dickinson Bayou Animal Services. What I thought would be a one-three day job ended up spanning six days. What follows are some of the observations and experiences I had during that time. And to be clear, these are just the animal rescues our HSUS team accomplished. There were countless more teams working throughout the Greater Houston and East Texas region.
Everyone I met on the ART was unique. Their shared bond was a deep care for animal well-being. Clad in dry suits up to their necks, the ART would work in rain, shin- to chest-deep water, in homes as well as trailers heavily dank with rotting items, mold, garage chemicals and all the other things typically found in flood water. As a team, we were able to rescue many animals; the HSUS organization’s other teams rescued countless more.
The first animal rescued was a gray, black and white cat reported missing by its owner, and found hiding just behind a mattress which had floated off the frame near a wall in a child’s room. Placed safely in a carrier, the cat was taken out to a local animal service truck that had followed as close as open roads would let them. The local service would ferry the cat to the shelter to be fed and rehabilitated till reunited with its owner.
The next call regarded a white Pit Bull stranded slightly, but fortunately, above water on a front porch. This, and every Pit we encountered was, once over the “introduction phase,” tail-wagging, face-licking and happy to see anyone who could get them elsewhere.
Once the white Pit was secured, ART responded to another request to rescue five dogs in carriers on a second-story neighbor’s balcony after the original owners home flooded to the roof. One was a gray Pit with an amputated right front leg; the other dogs each their own mix. With their food supply running low, each was led or carried downstairs to the waiting animal control vehicle.
Three days involved similar rescues totaling approximately 10 cats and about eight dogs being brought to safety from varied locations. In most cases, the animals will be reunited with their owner. An HSUS doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) arrived on day three to examine rescued animals for health concerns and administer rabies vaccinations.
A large specialized HSUS rig trucked in on day four and took animals eligible for adoption and already in shelter further north to a new shelter that would welcome the animals there. These combined efforts took the strain off local shelters which would otherwise be beyond capacity.
By day four, HSUS ART began assessing whether to relocate. Water had subsided in the Galveston region. They knew new areas were now flooded in East Texas. Supplies were inventoried and organized, a secondary boat and engine acquired and maintenanced. More crates were assembled.
More animals evaluated.
On day five, we drove to Beaumont. The closer we came to a new aquatic ground zero, the more our driving required detours. Our drop point was a powerless Shell Station which also found itself host to National Guard troops. We used I-10 as a boat launch, the roads as our river, the ditches as canals.
The last day I’d spend with HSUS ART was deemed too dangerous for me to come along. The boat going out needed to stay light, the team going out was reduced also. The reason for concern was that the boat would be going into faster waters over greater depth. Stationed on a dry patch with two HSUS ART members. I witnessed them take in two chickens spotted floating on a piece of wood. Crated now, the chickens were later fed and penned with another chicken.
The first and last boat of the day returned. The reported locations had already been tended to and no pets were found. This may sound like a letdown, but it means the Beaumont Fire Department, National Guard or perhaps locals, had already rescued those animals. What matters for those who care, and certainly to the HSUS and ART, is that ultimately animals, pets or otherwise, are cared for, treated ethically and rehabilitated when required.
Monday, August 28, Trae the Truth begins boat rescue efforts, despite having to evacuate his house in the flood.
TRAE THA TRUTH
By Epiphany Ciers
On a Tuesday evening, I called rapper TRAE THA TRUTH and I was not surprised to hear the hustle and bustle in the background. As he continued to unload a truck of supplies, I could undoubtedly notice how vigorously he was working to provide help for those in Houston still in need after the hurricane.
The Houston rapper hit the ground running after Hurricane Harvey devastated the area and left several thousands stranded in their neighborhoods. Even after being evacuated from his own home, he didn’t miss a beat. He hopped into his boat and began rescuing residents one by one. He used the power of social media and called anyone with a boat to help, invited his followers to donate and most importantly, requested the whereabouts for those still stranded.
“I stepped up because I knew it was a point in time during this hurricane I needed help,” he says. “I could only imagine how many people throughout the city who needed help.” He was able to physically be on the ground helping others and he did just that.
Trae Tha Truth received the spotlight for his Hurricane Harvey efforts after he partnered with BEYONCÉ and her organization, BeyGOOD, to provide food to victims at a local shelter. Little did everyone know, Trae had been giving to those in need since day one of this disaster. Trae teamed up with Houston rapper Chamillionaire to provide Beaumont prison inmates with supplies and also began a relief fund through his nonprofit organization, Angel by Nature.
It didn’t stop there. Weeks after the storm, Trae That Truth continues to assist any and everyone that needs it. Through his rescue group, ReliefGang, he plunges forward as he works day and night to aid Hurricane Harvey victims. From nine in the morning until as late as eleven at night, Trae That Truth is going door to door providing aid to those who need it.
“We are the ones who touch the people, who give them what they need.” He elaborates, “If you call for us, we are the ones who answer those calls and go to those areas that people don’t want to go to, that people overlook.”
Ten years ago, then mayor of Houston Bill White proclaimed July 22 as “Trae Day” to honor the work the rapper had done in the community. Although proclaimed as Trae Tha Truth’s holiday, he dedicated this day to the city of Houston. On this day, he continues to give to the city through an annual celebration to raise money for scholarships and other educational initiatives. Trae Tha Truth has gone over and beyond for the city of Houston for years – and did not stop when the city needed him the most.
Trae The Truth emphasizes, “At the end of the day, I am Houston and Houston is me. Together we are strong, we got to fight, we are us.”
Thursday, August 31, Aimee Woodall and Carla Valencia open The Giving Hub in space donated by Jonathan Granader.
HUBLIFE: TURNING COMPASSION INTO ACTION AT THE GIVING HUB
by Aimee Woodall + Carla Valencia de Martinez | Photography by Hunter Holder
The Giving Hub started out as a Labor Day weekend endeavor whose mission was to aid in hurricane relief – immediate relief, with the sole purpose of getting the people most in need the essentials to help them get by. It ended up lasting 20 days. And in those 20 days, our lives were touched by every person who came to donate supplies, volunteer their time and share stories of their need for relief.
AIMEE WOODALL, owner of The Black Sheep Agency, knows how to manage giant projects and uses her creative powers for good and CARLA VALENCIA, publisher of this very magazine, a woman with connections all over town and a strong conviction for our local community, came together and were the Giving Hub – a local relief station that ran from September 1st to 20th from 9–6 every damn day.
The idea started on Thursday, August 31, in a packed Jeep full of supplies headed to people in Baytown and Friendswood. Those long drives gave us time to devise a more effective way to do things. That night, we created an ad for the Giving Hub, and built a system that would give us structure for large-scale efficiency.
On Friday, September 1, the Giving Hub opened its doors at 611 W. 22nd Street in the Heights, a 4,600sf space donated by the landlord for the Black Sheep office, JONATHAN GRANADER. In that same building is SCOTT TYCER’S Kraftsmen Cafe, which readily came on board as our sandwich partner, providing fresh bread and sandwich supplies for all of our orders needing sustenance.
We began accepting donations and volunteers began pouring in. We had over 400 volunteers on call, and a set of drivers who made deliveries locally and across the state. Our volunteers came back again and again over those 20 days, saying that we were the most organized, efficient and welcoming place they had found to volunteer and contribute to our community. Their capacity to give, the want to help and the ability to rally in a second’s notice was awe-worthy and was all the gas we both needed to keep going. We are still amazed that we were able to put out a call on our social media platforms for immediate needs and Houstonians both near and far heard our call and filled those needs that same day.
We sent truckload deliveries to Beaumont, Vidor, Orange, Liberty, Highlands, Katy, Missouri City, Dickinson, Conroe, Port Arthur, Cold Spring, Livingston, Wharton, Humble and the east, west, north and south far stretches of Houston. To date, we have delivered more than 100,000 packages (cases/ cartons) to more than 450 locations.
Our volunteer staff was graciously fed by KRAFTSMEN CAFE, EL REY, HEARSAY, OUI BANH MI, PI PIZZA, LES GIVRAL’S KAHVE, BROOKSTREET BBQ, TACO DELI and more. We are proud to have made a difference for those in Harvey’s path and add capacity to our city’s relief efforts. Knowing that what we were doing made such a big impact in the lives of other Texans made it easier to leave our families each day and night to serve.
For more Harvey Relief resources, visit www.thegivinghubhouston.org.