Hello again everyone, we’re just back from another trip to Rockport and Tivoli. Before we get into the details, I wanted to share some interesting fund raising for Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Please keep those folks in your thoughts and prayers. The news of damages coming out of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations is staggering.
Our former U.S. Presidents have started The One America Appeal to raise money for relief efforts from Harvey, Irma and Maria if your looking to donate. If you need a new Texas flag sleeping bag, Enlightened Equipment is donating 100% of the profits from this new product to Houston relief aid.
For our trip this past weekend, I purchased laundry detergent, dish soap and cooking oil from a local Dollar Tree and H-E-B supermarket in Austin, based on our latest list from Angie in Tivoli. The employees at both stores did their best to accommodate my requests for items in bulk. One employee even asked if she and some fellow employees could personally support our efforts in addition to other H-E-B-led Harvey relief opportunities. I’ll be checking in with her this week to see how we might collaborate on future trips.
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We spent another $325 on Tivoli donations, leaving approximately $600 of your generous donations remaining.
Thomas, Halen and I planned to drop off Tivoli supplies, check in with neighbors and get Halen’s house ready for one of his relatives. The biggest news in the area since our last visit was that electricity had been restored for most Rockport residents by Friday Sept. 8th, two weeks after Harvey mad landfall.
We arrived in Rockport just before midnight on Friday and started working on the house Saturday morning. On our way across town, we were astonished at how much progress had been made since our first trip. Removal of massive amounts of debris piled up along the streets is now the most pressing challenge for city and county sanitation crews.
We were pleased to see food vendors still providing free food to the resilient Rockport community. Some more businesses are starting to open up, including several gas stations, restaurants, and Salemi’s ACE hardware, which had buckets scattered throughout the store to catch water dripping from the ceiling.
On Saturday evening we had dinner at The Boiling Pot, a Rockport mainstay. If you ever get a chance to visit Rockport and Fulton, gorge yourself on some local, cajun style seafood.
When we arrived at Halen’s house, we found a group of volunteers finishing off the remaining tree debris from his neighbor’s yard. Trees that were bare the week after Harvey have already regrown their leaves.
We spent most of Saturday and Sunday getting Halen’s house ready for his Mother-in-law to move in. She had been renting home that was condemned due to damage from Harvey. She and several other members of Halen’s family came over and braved the muggy heat to clean up the remaining tree debris and a metal shed that had blown over the fence during the hurricane.
On our way back on Sunday evening, we stopped by the Tivoli free ‘store’ to drop off our donations only to find it had closed. However, we were relieved to find a member of the local Tivoli Fire Department nearby and he offered to deliver donations to the store once it opened on Monday.
Well, that wraps up our latest trip. I’m feeling energized by the resilience and unity I see in the Rockport community as they recover from Harvey. I hope some of that comes across in these posts and updates. Stay tuned for updates on our efforts for this coming weekend. Be safe and thanks for your support!
My apologies on this delayed update, I’ve been traveling over the last 9 days and trying to get caught up. Halen and his wife, Clare, were gracious enough to carry the latest round of supplies to Rockport and Tivoli over the last couple weekends.
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In addition to these supplies, they also took a couple of bags of clothes, personal hygiene supplies, and toys to give to the family who lost everything during the storm. They were generously donated to the Griffin School, an effort led by two great Texans and close friends, Thomas Schiefer and Meghann Rosales. Thomas will be joining us this week as we head back down to Tivoli and Rockport tonight.
We’ve received another list of supplies from Angie, our contact in Tivoli:
A little less than half of the donations (~$875) remain and the strategy is to space it out and remain flexible to accommodate weekly needs. At some point, I’ll post a table with all of our expenditures not just for transparency, but also for educational value.
The main lesson in our efforts has been how important maintianing a local contact for up-to-date information on needs throughout a long period of disaster recovery. Though donations pouring in, Angie told us that many of the items are not needed and require storage and volunteer time to organize.
Finally and tragically, fires in the Western U.S., a large earthquake in Mexico and two other hurricanes that made landfall in Florida, Puerto Rico and multiple Caribbean nations over the last couple of weeks mean there are many others who need aid and support. If you know of any reliable and interesting charity work going on for those places, please share them with me so we can network and support those efforts.
We just returned to Austin from our first trip down to the Rockport area, but before that update, I must thank everyone who has contributed to our efforts. You have helped raise over $1800 (!!), far surpassing our expectations. This is part of larger trend of generosity and care for those needing relief. J.J. Watt’s fundraising is nearing $20 million and the Dell Foundation has pledged an initial $36 million ($100 million overall) to aid in recover efforts.
Rockport was directly in the path of Harvey. The eye passed right over the town, enduring the eye wall containing the storm’s most intense winds twice. It is hard to convey the extensiveness of both wind and flood damage caused by the storm, but this article by Jason Samenow covers it in depth. This short video filmed by hurricane chaser Josh Morgerman captures how powerful and devastating this storm was in Rockport. Several residents made analogies to a war zone and the number homes and business that were destroyed is truly staggering.
However, local law enforcement, fire and public health officials, supported by their counterparts from municipalities and counties across Texas are working tirelessly to support recovery efforts and keep people safe. Lines of utility trucks from Canada, Mexico and U.S. States join local utility companies and co-ops to get electricity and services operational. Community volunteers, including church groups, charities, and immigrants (documented and undocumented) are joining local, state and federal government agencies to mobilize rebuilding efforts in Rockport and across eastern Texas.
Optimism is high in the face of Harvey. The joint efforts of community members is both inspiring and effective. They are supported by the resolve and dedication of first responders, National Guard, federal and local government agencies, all facing an epic task of rebuilding a coastline.
Lending a hand in Tivoli and Rockport
My friend Halen King and I started packing up Friday night and picked up a truckload of donations. Halen and his lovely wife Clare, who both grew up in Rockport, had friends in Austin who bought and collected clothing, diapers, first aid supplies, and bottled water. Halen, Clare and their families have been crucial sources of energy, encouragement and information throughout this process.
We decided not to immediately use the funds collected from all of you because the city of Rockport had reached their storage capacity for donations. Instead, we purchased $230 in fuel to power generators and chainsaws. You can follow updates and news on recovery efforts on the Rockport-Fulton Hurricane Harvey Relief website.
We made our way down to Tivoli on Saturday morning. We stopped at the Dairy Queen Parking lot that was serving the staging area for information exchange and organization for the community. A couple of volunteers told us to find Angie, who was in charge of excepting and organizing donations in a large commercial building a couple of blocks away.
We found Angie among a crew of volunteers working hard to unload and organize the steady stream of donations coming in on pick-up trucks and trailers. We dropped off what we had and exchanged contact information. Later, Angie sent a list of needs:
We will use some of the collected funds for purchasing these supplies to drop off during our second trip this Friday (Sept. 8th).
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We continued to Rockport to help Halen’s neighbors who live just north of the Cove Harbor Marina and Drystack, which experienced extensive damage to their boat storage facility.
A chorus of chainsaws buzzed throughout the neighborhood with front end loaders and Bobcats moving up and down the street. We started clearing Halen’s neighbor’s house. His neighbor is a retired teacher who has been living in her home for over 30 years. Her home was damaged by a large tree and several limbs that contributed to roof leaks that soaked ceilings and walls.
Thankfully, a couple of her nephews had come down on Friday and cleared a large section of the driveway and removed her crumpled carport. Her front door was jammed shut, so we had to clear a path around her home to the back door. FEMA had already attempted an inspection, but they unable to finish due to tree limbs blocking access to the utility pole.
After three hours or so, we finished clearing a path to her backdoor and decided to drive around and see if anyone else needed help clearing limbs. As we pulled out, we encountered a group of 17 Operation Blessing volunteers finishing up assisting a house down the street. We heard they had mobilized nearly 1,000 volunteers to assist people along the coast.
We continued into town and found one of the many food vendors and trucks that were feeding everyone throughout the weekend. This tent was operated by members of Energy API and the Texas Jail Association and offered us delicious BBQ goat, brisket and sausage with rice and beans.
Water service in Rockport was only operational from 8AM to 5PM, with residents advised not to drink tap water without boiling. Through the night, water utilities were turning off the water so they can fix damaged pipes. When positive pressure is not maintained from loss of electricity or during maintenance it creates a major health risk. During outages, negative pressure pulls soil through openings in the pipes, contaminating the water supply.
The next day we finished clearing so FEMA could complete their inspection for Halen’s neighbor. We spoke to other people in the neighborhood who were living with 7 other family members in a travel trailer parked in their yard. Their home had sustained significant water damage from large holes in the roof. As we talked, it became clear that they did not have any insurance coverage and were not seeking government assistance. They had a couple of small children, so we offered a box of diapers. We also shared chainsaw and generator fuel.
We asked if they knew anyone else that was in need and they told us of a family of 10 who lost their home and belongings during the storm. Both households contain members who are volunteer firefighters and they or other family members may be undocumented immigrants. This is not an uncommon story emerging from impacted communities in the aftermath of Harvey. These families are an integral part to the fabric of these communities and to rescue and rebuilding efforts.
Natural disasters and poverty do not respect borders. We would like to use a portion of the donated funds to support these families, who are unlikely to seek out government assistance in the current political environment. As a result, they are some of the most vulnerable people in the aftermath of Harvey. Our philosophy in doing this work is to provide assistance to the most vulnerable regardless of immigration status, ethnicity, or background. We also have an obligation to support all of our first responders and their families.
What we saw this weekend reflects that philosophy and attitude. Truckloads of volunteers were making rounds through neighborhoods, stopping at every home to offer water and check on everyone as they worked in the humid, mosquito-infested heat. Several folks making their rounds stopped and offered to help us or asked if we knew anyone in need of assistance. We were not alone in sharing supplies, chainsaws, fuel, labor and words of encouragement.
In sum, we’ll be focusing on two main objectives moving forward:
Supplying the Tivoli relief ‘store’
Supporting the family of 10 that lost their home
Thank you all again for your generosity and for making this possible for us to reach so many people this weekend and moving forward! If you have any issues, comments or suggestions, please contact me.
Wanlov the Kubolor – one half of the FOKN BOIS – is making a public service announcement. He’s on an important mission to raise awareness about how human beings can protect the environment by eliminating trash. Even better, he believes we can create amazing, functional art with waste.
Interesting, informative, bizarre. Here’s a round-up of interwebs reading from the past few weeks:
Mushrooms are not at the top of my favorite foods list but, above, see why they are now at the top of my favorite things to watch a timelapse video of. Shot by cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg (watch his TED Talks) and starring mushroom enthusiast Paul Stamets. [io9]
Nobody expects atoms and molecules to have a purpose, so why do we still treat living beings like they do? [Aeon]
The first in a series of satirical articles about the U.S. written with the type of language that American journalists usually use to cover foreign countries. [Global post]
Since Guantanamo Bay started receiving captives, only three artists have been allowed to visit. Here are drawings from the latest visit. [Paris Review]