By Allison Eastepp
It’s been nearly a month since Hurricane Harvey made landfall, destroying hundreds of homes and leaving thousands stranded or displaced. The hurricane will no doubt leave a mark in every Texan’s mind, even those left physically unaffected. The incessant weather alerts, the heavy rainfall, the anxiety that taunted us as the flood waters rose. The 24-hour news coverage of Harvey gave us raw, real glimpses into its victims lives as reporters rowed through submerged streets to rescue those stranded. But through the devastation, we were able to witness, and take part in, the largest community relief effort the Houston area has seen in years.
In the aftermath of Harvey, dozens of TCHS students took to the streets to help their neighbors, teachers, friends, and even complete strangers. School clubs made team efforts to volunteer at makeshift shelters and homes that were destroyed by the water. Junior Shane Robinson, along with other welding students, took to TCHS Principal Earl Hall’s home to assist in moving furniture, tearing sheetrock from walls, and removing wood floors. “I felt bad for him and his neighborhood,” Robinson said. “Everyone’s treasured belongings were sitting on the sidewalk, waiting to be picked up by sanitation. With what was done in just a few hours, this same amount of work would have taken Mr. Hall well over a week to have done by himself.”
Senior Stormie Gutierrez’s home has now doubled in occupancy from bringing in family from devastated parts of Dickinson. But besides opening her home, Gutierrez also volunteered at numerous shelters passing out food and clothing. “When my mom fell asleep I snuck out of the house to go donate clothes and help with donations,” Gutierrez said. “I figured as long as we tried to help out as best we could, it’s not about our intentions anymore. It’s about action. You can’t just wish to do something; you have to do it. Whenever my [future] kids ask, ‘What did you do?’ I’m going to tell them I did do something. Not only because I wanted to but because I needed to. Whoever I saw that needed help, I just kind of went. I didn’t have an organization to my name.”
Aside from students, many Texas City teachers partook in volunteer efforts to help their fellow colleagues. Social Studies teacher Tisha Bronikowski organized a group of over 20 staff members to volunteer at Earl Hall’s home, contributing just as the welding club. Bronikowski also helped another social studies teacher Lindsay Gratzfeld get ahead of the mold after her home was submerged by several feet of water in Friendswood. “I was fortunate to not have anything happen to my house, so I should provide my services to people who are in need, which was a little difficult for me because I have a newborn at home, but I thought, ‘well I would hope my friends would do the same thing for me if it happened to me’, so I was there for my friends and coworkers.” Bronikowski said.
Sophomore Elizabeth Carter also volunteered with Temple Baptist Church, helping families recover from the damages in Dickinson and Hitchcock. Carter provided much needed aid in sorting personal belongings and stripping homes to their bare bones for renovations.
“It taught me that communities band together despite differences in race, class, religion, or anything else to help those in need,” Carter said. “While I think there are others who did much more than I did, I feel like I accomplished something. I feel like in some way I may have made someone’s life a little bit easier.”