Neighbors Helping Neighbors: The Best of America
As Irma hits Florida, Harvey relief efforts continue — 'I was so tired of hearing about politics,' said one man
While Florida and other parts of the U.S. brace for Hurricane Irma this weekend (and then Jose and even Katia), stories continue to come in about Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath — and how people gave (and are still giving) their time and resources to help others in need.
Darrin Forse, co-owner of Force Transportation trucking company, is one example. A resident of Houston, Forse had very little flood damage in his subdivision. He knows other people cannot say as much, so he’s been helping to collect and distribute food, water and clothing to those who lost everything.
"It's been nonstop," said Forse. "The junior high in our subdivision was opening as a temporary shelter, so several others and I took to our neighborhood Facebook page and said we needed everything from clothes to food to water."
Within two hours, Forse had 25 volunteers and enough food for hundreds.
"By that night, we had enough supplies for 400," he said. "It was a grass-roots efforts of people coming together and working tireless hours to provide comfort to those who came with only the clothes on their backs."
As bad as it was — Forse said the good that came out of this was remarkable.
"I was so tired of hearing about politics and black versus white, Hispanic versus black, Asian versus white," he told LifeZette. "It was just people loving their neighbors."
This is not the first time Forse has aided in disaster relief. "We had damage in Galveston from Hurricane Ike and helped there," he explained. That was in September 2008.
"But this was so widespread," Forse said of Harvey. "Efforts will be going on for months."
Forse knew at least two of Harvey's victims. One lived in Dickinson and was in a wheelchair. Another was a former football coach in the Houston area.
"It's just very, very sad," Forse lamented. "We're forming a relief organization within our neighborhood."
Forse encourages others to do the same, if they're not already involved in a relief effort.
One man who is involved with another relief effort is John Bailey of the Bailey Coach bus line in York, Pennsylvania.
Bailey sent three buses loaded with hurricane relief supplies to residents in Texas. Businesses and individuals in York County donated first-aid supplies, blankets, water and flashlights, among other things. The distance from York is well over 1,000 miles.
The Bailey Coach website urges people to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. As of this week, Bailey Coach was accepting donations at its location in York. People wanting to make a monetary donation were directed to the American Red Cross.
Another "neighbor helping neighbor" is Malaise Norfleet, a manager for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). She lives in Austin but grew up in Refugio, a small town northeast of Corpus Christi that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Feeling it could just as well have been her 18 years ago, Norfleet began emailing friends on Tuesday, September 5, to ask for donations. Two days later, she and her sister drove the items down to Refugio. Thanks to the generosity of her friends as well as some neighbors in Austin, Norfleet had to rent a U-Haul truck and drive two vehicles to pack all the donations.
“We had all kinds of things, from diapers and baby products to food, paper plates and plastic utensils,” she told LifeZette. “We also delivered socks, underwear, medicine, and cleaning supplies.”
People were grateful and overwhelmed after receiving the items.
“It was a surreal event,” recalled Norfleet. “The town has never experienced anything like it, and when we got there on Thursday, September 7, it had only been a few days since the hurricane and people were just starting to come to terms with their situation and what it’s going to take for their town to recover and rebuild.”
Norfleet recognized some storm victims. One was her babysitter.
“It was great to see her and give her a hug,” she said. “One of my sister’s friends from high school lives in Refugio, and she was there with her daughters and a church youth group to help sort and organize donations.”
At this time, Norfleet is not planning another collection/delivery, but she said donations flowed in from various places and sources. People can still give money if they would like.
“Another need has been mosquito spray and netting,” said Norfleet. “The mosquitoes hatched and around Friday, September 8, they took over Refugio.”
With many homes lacking windows, roofs and electricity as a result of Hurricane Harvey, Norfleet said people cannot escape the mosquitoes, which she describes as giant, ferocious and relentless.
“There are a ton of them,” she laments. “I mean, more than I’ve ever seen.”
Meanwhile, Refugio is planning to open its schools in mid-September.
“The organization I work for did a school supply drive for Refugio in the D.C. office,” said Norfleet.. “They collected three boxes full of supplies and are mailing them to Refugio.”
Chris Woodward is a reporter for American Family News and OneNewsNow.com. Based in Mississippi, he is also a contributor to OneMillionDads.com and EngageMagazine.net and a regular contributor to LifeZette.