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Aug 10, 2018 | Paulette E. Martin

Hurricane Harvey Recovery in Galveston County Brings Joy to Many Survivors

Monica is counting her blessings. After being displaced from her home for more than nine months, her daughter, mother and husband are finally back home. The family received more than four feet of water during Harvey, making their Santa Fe home, south of Houston, completely uninhabitable.

“Our home sat in mold for the first three months. The mold just kept growing with time,” Monica recalled.

Monica explained she used the money they received from FEMA to hire contractors to do the tear out and to pay for some hotel fees.                      

Her family also qualified for the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering (PREPS) program. Under the PREPS program, the state provides partial repair to survivor’s homes who were displaced because of Hurricane Harvey.

But funds were not enough to cover everything. Their household was left with many unfinished projects—incomplete flooring, walls without drywall and piles of storm related debris surrounding their home.

Knowing the need of Galveston County residents, Episcopal Strong, a youth mission trip led by Suzy Spencer of Holy Spirit and Alex Hillis of St. Mark in Houston, came to Monica’s neighborhood to lend a helping a hand. Also contributing were members from St. Christopher’s, League City and St. George’s, Texas City.

“There was debris all along this road that had been there for eight months—Episcopal Strong raised money and paid for two dumpsters to clear that up,” said the Rev. Robin Reeves, rector at St. George’s. 

“It’s been really awesome. I am very thankful to have had the help that I have received,” exclaimed Monica with excitement in her voice. She received a new washing machine and dryer and a small air conditioning unit that helps keep part of her house cool after Reeves asked her what her biggest needs were. The Diocese of Texas’s Hurricane Recovery Program purchased the new appliances which were installed by members of St. Christopher’s.

Prior to getting a washer and dryer, Monica had to find a ride to and from a laundromat to wash her clothes. “We don’t have a vehicle so I had to pay somebody at least $10 to $20 to come pick me up. It was costing me about $45 to do the laundry once a week,” she said.

“I am very grateful for everything,” said Monica, in response to the help she has received from the Episcopal Church.

Santa Fe wasn’t the only city that suffered major damage. Dickinson, also in Galveston County was one of the hardest hit cities in the greater Houston area. According to the local police, more than 7,000 homes and 88 businesses were seriously damaged. In this small city of 20,000 people, well more than half of the population was affected.

Julie and her family in Dickinson were gleefully making final arrangements to move into their renovated home after receiving “water through the doors which rose several feet” last August.

“Harvey de-cluttered my house,” Julie joked as a team of volunteers from Holy Trinity Episcopal in Dickinson, roamed in and out of her house delivering and assembling new furniture in collaboration with High Socks for Hope. 

Humor aside, Julie shared that she is very grateful for Janet, her sister who allowed her and her daughter, Kaitlynnto live with them for 11 months while their house was getting reconstructed by other family members.

“I’m so excited to have my own space,” exclaimed the 20-year-old as she saw her new bed and dresser.

A couple of miles down the road, Carrie’s family, also from Dickinson, said their rescue story will live with them forever.

“We had watched Titanic that day,” recalled Carrie, mother of 17-year-old daughter, Caelea. “The water kept coming up. I called the police and there were no high water rescue vehicles and the National Guard couldn’t get here.”

The family of two got 48 inches of rain overnight. After taking her daughter to their neighbor’s house for safety, Carrie decided to leave the house after hearing boats outside.

“The house didn’t have windows facing that street, so I decided to swim towards a truck down the street,” said the mother.

“I could see her whenever she was on the bed of the truck and I walked away for like five seconds, when I came back, she was nowhere to be seen,” recounted the daughter.

“I managed to make it to the end of the street—I held on to the stop sign so the current couldn’t take me, and finally, I saw boats coming by,” Carrie said.

The family had nothing with them, no shoes, no house keys, not a single thing to prove their house was theirs.  Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders, staff at Holy Trinity, and an attorney helped her with the paperwork needed to qualify for Fuller’s rebuilding program.

Members of Holy Trinity had helped to create a memorable welcome home by outfitting the kitchen with her favorite colors and assembling and staging bedroom furniture. 

The renovated “Pinterest” house, as her daughter describes it, is now a warm and lovely place where the Cobbs hope to replace better memories with the ones from Harvey.  

“In the middle of the night I think about ‘I lost that’—I don’t think I have slept one full night without thinking about something that I have lost and obsessing whether if somebody threw it away or if it was high enough to be saved,” Carrie said.

“This whole experience has made us so much stronger,” Caelea added.

If you would like to come out and help assess homes in Galveston County, contact, the Rev. Robin Reeves of St. George’s. There will be trainings and volunteer opportunities in the county on August 25.

The mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas’s Hurricane Recovery program is equipping our churches to engage in long term Harvey recovery with their most vulnerable neighbors. Funding comes through grants from Episcopal Relief & Development and the Diocesan Quin Foundation. Contact for more information.