Kat Creech, a former Oak Forest resident who works as an event planner in the area, started a nonprofit in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey because her fellow Houstonians needed help.
Three years later, Recovery Houston is back in action but has its eyes fixed on friends to the east. Hurricane Laura narrowly avoided Houston last week but ravaged the people of southwest Louisiana, who sent volunteers and rescue boats to the Bayou City when much of it was under water in 2017.
Creech drove to Louisiana last weekend to survey the damage caused by the Category 4 storm and, this weekend, is returning with a team of volunteers and supplies. Recovery Houston is coordinating with the Cajun Navy Foundation to help cover damaged roofs with big, blue tarps, a temporary fix so residents can still live in their homes while they survey the wreckage and await assistance from FEMA and their insurance companies.
“We want to take our circle of influence and love here in Houston and give back to the Cajuns, to the Cajun Navy, who helped us a lot during our time of need here in Houston,” Creech said. “That’s the call to action.”
Area residents can support Creech’s effort by making tax-deductible donations at www.recoveryhouston.org. Those interested in volunteering or donating goods and other supplies can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Many other local residents and area businesses are lending their own hands to Lake Charles, the Louisiana city hit especially hard by Hurricane Laura, and surrounding communities in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas. Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella Blvd., was among the Houston restaurants to make donations for Hurricane Laura relief.
American Legion Post 560 in Garden Oaks held a donation drive, collecting items such as bottled water, non-perishable food, diapers, undergarments and cleaning supplies that were sent to communities in need.
Liberty Hoepfl Garage, 4610 N. Shepherd Dr., is collecting goods for Starks, Louisiana, in a partnership with Durham Elementary School. Garage co-owner Kathryn van der Pol said generators and fuel are among the most pressing needs in communities impacted by the hurricane.
“We’ve always had a close kinship with the folks from Louisiana,” van der Pol said. “We helped them during Katrina. It’s just time to help them now.”
Also spearheading that effort are Durham teacher Anne Baumgarten and Garden Oaks residents Dorothy Leahy and Brooke Murphy, who are collecting supplies at their homes. Baumgarten said Leahy and Murphy personally delivered items last weekend and were planning to send more this week.
Last weekend’s drop-offs in Louisiana included donated bottled water from William Price Distilling, an in-the-works spirits manufacturer at 970 Wakefield Dr. in Garden Oaks that pivoted to producing hand sanitizer at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zack Hiller, vice president of the company, said it sent more than 1,000 gallons of water last weekend and will keep bottling it as long as there is a need. Hiller said it’s City of Houston water that is treated on site at William Price Distilling, which will use the same water when it begins making whiskey and other spirits later this year.
“Those two ladies were instrumental in us getting the water out there,” Hiller said of Leahy and Murphy. “I’m doing the easy part, just putting water in bottles.”
Rob Gaudet of the Cajun Navy Foundation, one of multiple similarly-named organizations in Louisiana, is a Lake Charles native whose group has set up a command center in the city and is focusing its relief efforts on low-income communities in the northern part of town. He has been coordinating with Creech and Recovery Houston to serve as first responders of sorts to homes damaged by Laura, which brought more wind than rain.
Three years after the grassroots, crowdsourcing organization performed more than 4,000 water rescues in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Gaudet said the Cajun Navy Foundation is thankful to the Houstonians who are now returning the favor.
“We couldn’t ask for a better state to be next door to,” Gaudet said.
Crews from Strata Roofing & Construction at 4715 Pinemont Dr., have been making daily trips to the Lake Charles area to put tarps on damaged roofs, particularly on larger homes. Owner Bryan Meyer said most impacted homeowners are being charged for the service, but the company is doing minor repairs for free and not taking up-front money from veterans and first responders.
If other impacted residents cannot afford to pay the entire cost to have their roofs secured, Meyer said his company is allowing them to pay a portion of the price and defer the rest.
“Everybody here is super appreciative of us doing what we’re doing,” Meyer said Tuesday from Louisiana. “There’s so much destruction in East Texas and western Louisiana. There’s just not enough people (to help).”