HOUSTON – It's been just over a month since the most devastating hurricane in U.S. history tore through Greater Houston.
Since then, thousands of volunteers have been helping homeowners bring a sense of normalcy back to the city and lead survivors on the path to recovery. One of the groups of volunteers is Recovery Houston.
It all started as what was supposed to be a substitute activity for a wedding party that was postponed because of Hurricane Harvey. Kat Creech was Sarah Samad and Mohsin Dhukka's wedding planner. After the couple decided that they wanted to postpone their Sept. 3 wedding, Creech had the idea of organizing the couple's wedding guests into a group of volunteers.
"It was really about the idea of taking a bride and a groom and their wedding party into an organized concept ... The idea ignited Recovery Houston, and it really allowed for complete strangers to get firsthand, to be able to help," said Creech.
Instead of planning a wedding, she planned relief efforts. Little did she know, she found her passion and that passion would result in incredible growth. Soon 30 wedding guests turned into hundreds of volunteers from all over the country. In her search to find places where they could help, Creech ended up organizing her own volunteer organization.
"Being an event planner, we could really answer the question of, 'How do we move people? How do we make sure that we're organized?'" she said.
She and two other volunteers, Kim Comer and Jason Fajkus, whom she found during her initial quest to help, founded Recovery Houston, a volunteer organization that helps connect homeowners and survivors with volunteers who will help them clean up.
More volunteers needed in recovery after Harvey -Posted by KPRC2 Rose-Ann Aragon on Tuesday, September 26, 2017
"If we can find just one person and make their world normal, then we did a good deed," said Creech. "It is really hard to believe that we are in fourth post-week of Harvey, and we are still out every single day, thanks to our amazing volunteers."
Recovery Houston has already gutted more than 200 homes and has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers. Although the organization has grown significantly, Creech had noticed something troublesome.
"The volunteer pool has definitely dwindled quite a bit, from where we were to where we are today," said Creech.
Creech said that the organization now relies mostly on volunteers and businesses from outside Houston to meet the needs of Harvey survivors.
— Rose-Ann Aragon KPRC (@RAragonKPRC2) September 26, 2017
On Tuesday, more than 100 volunteers from Austin, Dallas and even Palo Alto spent the day gutting homes.
"Moving appliances, furniture -- anything that's been damaged by the water," said volunteer Emily Breigger, an employee for VMware, a Palo Alto-based company that encouraged its employees to trade office wear for boots and masks and spend time in Houston rather than in the office or Austin campus.
"It's unlivable. There's bugs everywhere. The food is ruined. All the cabinets have to come out," said volunteer Kam Pirouz.
According to Crisis Cleanup, a help line for Harvey survivors that helps connect requests with volunteers, there have been 19,548 requests for assistance, with 12,920 requests completed by volunteers, 1,433 in progress and 5195 requests for help unclaimed.
Yojanis Cacer, a mother of five, said these volunteers are the reason she has not given up.
100+ volunteers from Austin, Dallas and Palo Alto came to help volunteer. The group are working with Recovery Houston and Volunteer HoustonPosted by KPRC2 Rose-Ann Aragon on Tuesday, September 26, 2017
"I'm really grateful that you all came to help us," Cacer said in Spanish.
Organizers just hope that people continue to step up and that businesses such as VMware do the same.
"We need you. 100% we need your hearts and hands," said Creech.