After Harvey: The Texas Recovery

Trip Summary and Conclusion at the bottom!
Thanks everyone for your help!!

Hi Everyone,

This campaign is fundraising to assist in the recovery efforts for the Aransas Pass, Rockport, and Port Aransas communities. These communities were hardest hit during the original landfall of Hurricane Harvey.

Due to an unfortunate coincidence, this recovery effort coincides with a pre-planned trip by Anna Kong and myself to visit San Antonio. My family and friends are from this community and we want to use our trip to purchase tools, food, and other supplies for delivery to the areas most in need.

This fundraising campaign is a targeted mission, for the specific needs of Aransas Pass and Rockport, TX, which remain without power and under a boil advisory order. Due to the level of damage in the area, many residents are unable to return to their homes. By order of the National Guard, many areas of Rockport, TX cannot be visited. 

As of today, 5 days after the initial landfall, the community remains in a state of early recovery. Rosemary Vega, the CEO of the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce, noted "Our shelters were destroyed in the hurricane, which makes the recovery that much more difficult."

To maximize your donation's impact, Anna and I are speaking with local emergency teams in Rockport and Aransas Pass, TX to determine their most pressing needs. So far, the most requested items are basic non-perishables for residents (food and basic living goods) and working tools for the clearing and recovery efforts by emergency teams.

While areas of Corpus Christi and Portland TX have seen their power and running water restored, the more coastal towns of Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, and Rockport are expected to remain in the dark for some time ahead.

Your financial support will be assisting both first responders, whom have been operating on 16+ hr shifts to restore the community infrastructure, and displaced residents, many of whom are without proper food or shelter.

Items your donations will fund:
2 Generators (800 each)
Diapers (6 Boxes @ $40 each)
Chainsaw blades (10 boxes @ $20 each)
Blade oil (2 containers @ $10 each)
Working Gloves ($5)
Food  & Cleaning Supplies from Walmart ($240)
Single-use gift cards ($325)

Given this is a time-sensitive fundraising campaign with a firm deadline of Saturday September 2nd (our arrival in San Antonio), any additional donations after the deadline will be submitted to local charity organizations serving the coastal bend, such as those listed in the link below.

Funds will be withdrawn to my personal bank account. I will then use the funds to purchase the equipment already discussed thus far. 

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/08/28/hurricane-harvey-relief-efforts-how-help/
 

Here are two local organizations in the area we are looking to support:

https://www.facebook.com/Aransas-Pass-Hurricane-Harvey-VolunteerDonation-Task-Force-822650761245035/

https://www.facebook.com/RockportFire/

Here are a few photos of the damaged area and the recovery efforts.

Before:

After




And a photo of those currently working in the recovery zones:

Once again, these local communities have been rocked to their very core. The nearly ubiqutious reponse from my calls to the area is, "Thanks for thinking of us. We really appreciate all the help we can get." 

As a southern man, I know this phrase encompasses a lot of emotion. They are simply shocked to know that New Yorkers are donating to their small coastal community.

Your donation and support can make a difference. And more specifically, with this campaign you will see how your donation impacts these specific communities.

Thank you again for your kindness and support of these great Texas towns.

Sincerely,
Timothy Breidenbach
Brooklyn, NY
------------------------------------------
A native of North Padre Island, TX 
Graduate of Flour Bluff
(And still has his 361-area code cell phone)

UPDATE & CONCLUSION TO TRIP------------------------

Hello Everyone!

 

Apologies on our delayed updates, but the region of Rockport, Aransas Pass, and Portland possessed limited cell phone coverage and internet accessibility. Having landed back at JFK airport in NYC this afternoon, we’ve attained some level of normalcy back in our daily regiments. Here is a summary of the events that unfolded after picking up our vehicle in San Antonio.

Day 1: Picking up supplies

With initial understandings of emergency situation response teams, we were aware of how rapid needs could change in the communities impacted. As cell phones were unreliable in the area, Facebook began a key method of communication. We quickly found the local community was able to source supplies rapidly through the social networking effect. In fact, many supplies would be turned away as donation storage and maintenance became difficult.

However, after speaking with the both the Rockport Volunteer Firefighters and the Aransas Pass Donation Taskforce, we found an important niche to support with deployable capital. Given the minor investment required, many local donors supplied dry goods, water, toiletries and other low-cost daily goods. These items became readily available for first responders and residents alike. We were informed that the issues for these groups shifted from initial shelter and survival materials to long-term recovery needs.

A majority of homes experienced some form of roof shingle damage. After exposing the roof and interior insulation, rainfall became a devastating force, adding weight to the insulation and causing drywall ceilings to collapse. Firefighters and police forces working to restore the city infrastructure were relocated to homes less impacted by the wind and storm damage. In order to maintain the semi-destroyed homes, large tarps were needed to secure the roofs. In addition, generators were needed to run the homes, including phone charging, refrigerators, and ventilation fans. Given the high cost of generators, these large unit power supplies were always in high demand (along with large, portable gasoline containers to provide fuel). Lastly, the Rockport fire department noted 60% of trees were uprooted and 100% of power lines were either severely damaged or knocked down entirely. Our photos illustrate the vastness of the damage. As such, chainsaw blade replacements were always in high demand.

We focused our efforts on sourcing tarps, generators, and chainsaw blade replacements and chainsaw lubricant. Our first stop on the route in San Antonio was to McCoys hardware. Cars and trucks along the roadway lined entry and exit points at gas stations. These waiting lines appeared to be 1-2 hours in length, with the Mayor of San Antonio stating, “gas purchases are at 2.5x rate of daily purchases & folks are hoarding.” Seeing these long waiting lines for gasoline had a strange reinforcement feeling as fear purchases and panic buying began to feel logical and somewhat rational. We decided to take the refilling risk that small towns between San Antonio and Rockport would have ample fuel supplies for our needs.

After not finding the materials at McCoy’s hardware, we tried Home Depot. A representative informed us that gasoline containers were completely sold out, including at all neighboring store locations. Generators and tarps were largely sold out, with none available in the area locations. Thankfully the store trip was not entirely in vain, as we were able to find standard size chainsaw replacement blades. The initial shock of empty shelves and gasoline shook our understanding of the situation and reformed what our expectations should be for this donation drive. If we couldn’t source supplies for those in need, how could anyone else?

As large sellers of supply chain resources, we thought Costco could be a viable option for our donations. In addition to the variety of tools and materials available, we expected Costco to have lower costs materials to maximized our donation impact. Thanks to some quick contacts in the San Antonio area, we were able to access the store and find a great offering on generators and diapers. After thanking our Costco contact, we left the city for Aransas Pass.

There was little evidence of the storms damage along the route. We began to worry the destruction was overblown and that recovery was nearly complete. Our worry evaporated once we entered the coastal region. Hints of the storm’s damage began to surface, with tilted power lines and the occasional uprooted tree. The damage became all-encompassing once we entered Rockport. Motorhomes lay strewn about the residential parks, boat storage warehouses were torn apart, and homes partially or entirely destroyed.

Our first stop was to the Rockport Volunteer Fire Department. Those in the area were shocked to know New York residents came together to help their community. We were informed that our generators would specifically support a police officer and firefighter family for their use. Power to the town’s core business area was not expected for another 8-10 days, with large residential areas likely to be without power another 1-3 months. Given the summer heat of south Texas, the generators would provide a safe habitable environment for those families.

Our second stop was to the City of Aransas Pass Donation Taskforce. This group was a well-organized response team to organize and distribute donated supplies in the Aransas Pass area. We quickly found that the organization’s connections to social media sourced the lion’s share of supplies. We ran into additional donation groups such as Harvey’s Helpers and others. The taskforce was stationed in the maintenance bays of Allen Samuels, a car dealership in Aransas Pass. The dealership did not entirely avoid the storm’s force. The lot was riddled with damaged cars and corrugated roofing, ripped from the two-story structure.

The taskforce prepared a well-organized drive-thru lane for distributing supplies to area residents. Each vehicle would pull forward, through the dealership drop-off. A taskforce attendee would then ask the driver for the size of the household, and a bag of assorted dry goods would be handed to the passenger or driver. While driving through the dealership, the passenger or driver may ask for specific item. Those requested items were often not available. Thanks to the support of our donor group, we were able to step in and provide an option. By presenting these families with giftcards, we were able to grant these families the smallest of creature comforts. Some families desired fans. Others requested air mattresses and cleaning supplies. Still more asked for clothes or hygiene products. Many families lost everything and had very little to restart their lives with.

The gratitude for our help was ubiquitous, and some wept when we presented the cards. It was the smallest token of normalcy. A reminder of what was, and how drastic their lives had shifted. We did not take any photos of the families or those receiving aid, as we hoped to maintain their pride over this ordeal. But the resiliency was apparent. From our view, the hundreds of electric workers and the town itself appeared to refuse defeat. But life would likely never be the same.

The following day we surveyed the destruction of a particular neighborhood and provided clean-up support of one local resident’s home. The residents took us on a tour of the land parcel and what remained of the home. We were told of the large barn that existed where only a concrete slab now laid, and we were told of the 3 missing boats and the hundreds of mechanical tools inside which were now rusted from the salt water storm surge. We were shown the strewn about power lines and their primary residence. The building conspicuously maintained its color and wood exterior, but the roofing was nearly gone. Shingles were arranged across the yard and drive-way in a chaotic manner, suggesting a tornado had moved through the neighborhood. Further supporting the tornado theory, an RV was shredded and dropped in front of a neighbor’s house.

The home’s interior, a week after the storm, was now beginning to develop significant mold. The first floor was overwhelmed by flood waters, and nearly no possessions were salvageable. Personal effects left behind were water-logged and beginning to reek of sulfuric muskiness, indicative of deep sea sand usually found in the marshy regions of the area. The second floor, while spared the vast damage of the rising flood water, lay entirely exposed to falling rainwater. As insulation absorbed rainwater, the dry-wall ceiling began to give way. The moldy piles of wet insulation covered every surface, and the whole place took on the appearance of nuclear fallout.

After a day of laboring in the Texas heat, we were able to separate salvage furniture and what should be left behind. The community remained frail. And nerves are on edge. With private property strewn across many different parcels, neighbors and strangers must work together to identify personal effects. We witnessed one exchange that was nearly dangerous. 6-10 strangers entered a neighbor’s property, walking through to see a boat which landed on their yard. Seeing this large group of possible looters, guns were rapidly drawn in effort to deter the trespassers. Seeing the armed neighbors, the strangers quickly returned to their vehicles and fled the area. While the engagement was over, the feeling was tense.

On our final day, we returned back to the donation building at Allen Samuels. The task force informed Anna and I that dry goods and cleaning materials were in short supply. As we sourced our final delivery from Walmart and made our final goodbyes, we reflected on what recovery remained. There was so much destruction. The lives of those impacted and those lucky enough to have a shelter still standing. We heard stories of separated families, with children attending distant schools with relatives as recovery continued at homes they would never use again.

The spirit had not been broken by the storm. But there would be lasting damage to the heart of the community. Years would likely pass before a recovery would be complete. While those families that left may never return, the Texas way of life never left. Communities and neighbors cared for each other. Those that endured the storm’s initial impact also ensured the safety of others during the storm.

Anna and I deeply appreciate the financial support of our donors. Your help truly made this impact. And honestly, I can say we have never been so emotionally or physically exhausted from a trip. Our experience of this destruction was fleeting and breathtakingly brief in relation to those actually impacted by the storm. In regards to direct donations for storm relief, large organizations such as the Red Cross don’t seem to fulfill the needs. While the local relief groups are trained in disaster recovery efforts, we find it difficult to see how the Red Cross could assist small community needs on a grass-roots level. Overall Anna and I believe the best route for future local impact would be direct donation of supplies (if you are in the area), or direct donation of financial assistance to the local community organizations. While this opens accountability risks, these organizations know the greatest need of their communities. In addition, their connections to larger relief efforts grants them more material sourcing opportunities, which makes it the better viable support structure. So, instead of making a generic contribution to disaster relief, find reputable local groups that you would like to support and investigate their credibility. Once that research is complete, you can be assured that your donation provides the highest level of support.

 

Thank you again for all the support along this journey,

Warmest Regards,

Timothy Breidenbach & Anna Kong

Donations

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  • Chris & Maureen Carrano 
    • $50 
    • 42 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $20 
    • 42 mos
  • claudia rocco 
    • $100 
    • 42 mos
  • Madison Gallagher 
    • $40 
    • 42 mos
  • Kelly Colotla 
    • $100 
    • 42 mos
See all

Organizer

Timothy Breidenbach 
Organizer
Brooklyn, NY
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