Hurricane Harvey Relief

Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey here in our home state of Texas and to those currently being hit by Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Southeastern US.

As a former Houston resident and a guy who has a LOT of friends in the Houston area and the Texas Coastal Bend (remember – it wasn’t just Houston, it was our entire coastline from Corpus Christi to Port Arthur) Harvey hit way too close to home. We have dozens of friends who had to evacuate and a few of them came home to good news and more came home to catastrophic losses.

As we watched the news unfold we realized that we had to do something!

Boots on the GroundC.J.’s first thought was to buy a boat and help with rescues. He was talked out of doing this personally, but a friend, James Clark with Boots On The Ground, reached out to CJ and said that he was staging and getting ready to head down to the Coastal Bend to do rescues and asked for help raising money for the Rescue boat. James is trained in Swift Water Rescue and is a very experienced first responder that C.J. has been friends with and who he’s watched work through BOTG for years. He’s a hero.  CJ leveraged the donation he was going to make by encouraging friends to donate and To Go Events would match the donations up to a determined amount. The boat cost was right at $3000 and we were able to raise more than enough for the boat and hopefully some other expenses. Mercury Motors came through for James and donated a 40-50 hp outboard motor (needed for the swift water – in fact, they used it to rescue another crew who did not have a strong enough motor). That got James in the water and doing rescues and evacuations. BAM!

One of CJ’s facebook friends, Terry Forsche, who is a fellow Marine Military Academy graduate (CJ’s alma mater) suggested that we could provide the logistics for getting donations to the affected area – and Marjoree Harper, from Bossier Parish Community College, ran with it from there! She contacted a group of colleges that To Go Events and Fun Fotos To Go works with and who are all active in the APCA and they agreed to do donation drives. CJ and Kim from To Go Events would drive to Louisiana and North Texas to pick up the items, and deliver them where needed.

Map of the Harvey Trip

Map of our route. Driving the Motorhome adds about 3 hours to the total estimated driving times.

The participating schools were:

  • Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA
  • Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, LA
  • Texas A&M Texarkana in Texarkana, TX
  • University of North Texas Dallas in Dallas, TX
  • Navarro College in Corsicana TX.

All of these Student Activities Directors have one thing in common, they are clients – but more than that – they’re friends of ours – and boy did they step up to the plate.

Miranda and the trailer

32′ Motorhome and 16′ Box Trailer

We left our HQ just outside of Austin, TX around 3:00 on Thursday in our motorhome (we call her Miranda). We’d had schools send us pictures of what had been donated so far so we could judge if we needed to bring a van and a trailer or send two vehicles or if we could take the motorhome. We ended up taking the Motorhome which worked out perfectly as we needed that big V10 engine to haul the goods we got!

NSU Loading Crew

The crew from NSU who helped us load!

We drove as far as Lufkin that night and stopped around 9:00. Parked in the Walmart parking lot overnight and got up early to head to our first stop in Natchitoches, LA at Northwestern State University. We arrived at 10:00 a.m. on the nose and the NSU Student Activities office had a crew of students there at the curb waiting for us. We pulled up, they loaded us in record time, being careful to load all the water directly over the axles to keep the trailer well balanced. We had allowed an hour at their stop on our schedule, but they got us loaded and on the road in about 20 minutes!

BPCC Loading Crew

Our BPCC friends!

Next we had about a 70-minute drive up to Bossier City, LA (just outside Shreveport) to Bossier Parish

BPCC student athletes loaded the trailer

BPCC had student athletes on hand to load the trailer for us.

Community College, home of Marjoree Harper who got everyone on board for this trip. And man did her campus deliver! We pulled up and there were 20 student athletes and other volunteers standing at the curb with everything staged and ready to load into the trailer. All of the goods were thoughtfully packed in copier paper

boxes and labeled and organized by what was inside. This made things MUCH easier for the food bank when we arrived to unload. The students formed an old fashioned water brigade style line and got us loaded and on the road to the next stop way ahead of schedule.

Our next stop was going to be TAMU-Texarkana, however their largest donors came in after we were scheduled to be there, so the DSA said we should go on to the next stop and she’d take care of getting what was donated at her school in the proper hands – so that got us even further ahead of schedule and

Navarro College Donations

Navarro College Filled us completely!

on our way to the next stop…

UNT Dallas Hurricane Harvey Relief team

UNT Dallas’ volunteers who got us loaded up and on to the next stop.

University of North Texas at Dallas! Jennifer Skinner had underestimated what she’d get on the last day

– so it’s a good thing that TAMUT took care of their own deliveries or we’d have run out of room!  UNT Dallas, where we had just done a program 48 hours earlier filled our trailer to the gills! We were starting to get a little worried about space and about weight. I know we were well over what this trailer was

rated for – so I drove extra carefully and alert. Fortunately we had just replaced the hubs, springs and axles – so I felt pretty good about the trailer holding out. It sure did suck down the gas once it was loaded

Navarro College stepped up

The awesome crew from Navarro College

down though. We got about 4 MPG between Dallas and Houston! We usually get about 7mpg in the coach!

We had thought that we’d have to pick up from our final school Navarro College late night or possibly

We filled the couch, dining area, walkway and the bedroom of the RV with bags of clothes and more cases of water! We had to move everything so we could sleep that night!

the next morning, but the mass of volunteers at all of the schools, and TAMUT taking care of their own logistics, got us into Navarro at just after 5:00. OL Kelly and his BIG group of volunteers hung around for us and got us loaded in no time at all! They had so much more stuff for us that the trailer was too

full so we loaded sacks full of clothes and stuffed animals into the inside of the coach.  Once we were all

loaded OL surprised us with a beautiful gift basket. We were hungry by then and asked where to go for

CJ and Kim at the Houston Food Bank dropping off the donations.

good Pizza and the overwhelming response was Napoli’s so we wen

t and had great pizza. When it came time to pay, we discovered that OL had called ahead and had taken care of our dinner too. So very nice of him.

With full tummies and a long day behind us we drove a couple of hours towards Houston and stayed the night in the parking lot of another Walmart (we’re in our motorhome, so it’s exactly the same as staying at an RV resort when we’re sleeping). We were only about 90 minutes from our Houston destination at the Houston Food Bank so we got up early, went to Cracker Barrell for breakfast and

Lots of water

We transported three pallets full of water!

drove into Houston.

As usual Kim was crocheting as we were driving down the highway. We were on the Hardy Toll Road when she asked for the first time… “Do you think we’ll see any of the flooded areas?”. I  pointed to the

Houston Food Bank

Houston Food Bank volunteers unloading the trailer. What a great group of warm hearted people.

right just as we passed the first areas that we’d seen that had been flooded. It was heartbreaking to see piles of possessions that had been destroyed laying out at the curb in mountains for the garbage collectors to come and haul away to the dumps. We both cried. We both felt great about what we were doing.

GPS navigated us to the address for the Houston Food Bank and the road was closed by HPD and we had to drive around to the other side. That’s right, response was so generous that they had to have the HPD directing traffic. Once in the staging area we got extremely lucky – there was a van there taking clothing and household items to a different location for distribution. We were going to have to do that ourselves as food and other items went to different places – but we happened to be at the right place at the right time. Yay us! Volunteers swarmed to help us unload. Every one of t

hem was smiling, happy, friendly and working their butts off to help their fellow Houstonians.

Houston Food Bank

The Houston Food Bank was doing an awesome job collecting and distributing food to those in need.

It was a joy all the way around. They were appreciative of the thoughtful donations and repeatedly thanked us. But we’re not the ones to be thanks. The college advisors we work with, the students, the staff and the faculties of these amazing colleges are the ones to be thanked. They’re the ones who donated – we just hauled stuff for them.

This was an amazing experience for us to be a part of. We estimated that we were able to deliver about $10,000-15,000 worth of stuff. Canned goods, diapers, wipes, formula, school supplies, clothes, backpacks, luggage, adult diapers, pet food, three full pallets of water, clothes, new socks and underwear, games, cleaning supplies, bleach, laundry detergent, coloring books and crayons, gatorade, cases of macaroni and cheese…and that’s just some of the stuff. There is no way that we could have done it alone – it took a team.

What I’m about to say is not something that is meant as a humble brag or as an outright brag – it’s to illustrate that we all can make a difference if we leverage what it is that we have at our disposal. Our willingness to manage the logistics of handling the donations inspired others to do what they could do to organize drives on their campuses knowing that the delivery was taken care of. This inspired students, staff and faculty to donate items. It Nobodyinspired people to donate cash so that schools could shop for items or pass those cash donations on to those in need. Those donations inspired people to be nice to one another, to put aside differences and to help their fellow human beings. Inspire someone today. Make a difference.

My dear friend David Hira, an amazing motivational speaker and magician, says this to me all the time, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something”. Please… do something today for your fellow human. We’ll do the same.