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Volunteers donate to help victims of Imelda's wrath

HOUSTON – A caravan of vehicles snaked through a vacant parking lot Wednesday on Houston's south side. It was a drive-thru, one that required a wait due to demand, but not for fast food. This drive-thru aimed to deliver must-haves to local families working to recover from Tropical Storm Imelda.

"Any little thing that helps," remarked Connie Juarez as she pulled up to collect boxes of water, cleaning supplies and food.

Imelda claimed her family's vehicle. Her husband trekked through high water during his drive home from work in Baytown. The water got into the car's muffler.

While her husband made it home, a neighbor's knock at the door confirmed flames had engulfed the car.

"Maybe 30 minutes after he parked the car, they were knocking on my door saying, 'Your car is on fire.' I said, 'Let me get the water hose.' They said, 'No. No. You don't understand. Your car is gone,'" Juarez said, driving the family's new SUV, for which she was thankful.

The supplies, Juarez said, offered relief. Anything and everything helps when recovering from a storm.

"I donate to help out, so this is a big, big help for me," Juarez said.

Wednesday's relief drive was organized by KIPP: Texas Public Schools, which organized a series of events like Wednesday's to help area families recovering from Imelda.

"There was a lot of flooding up here which impacted a lot of ... not just our families' vehicles, their homes, but also staff and just the general community. People had their homes flooded," said Megan White, regional manager of operations, for KIPP: Texas Public Schools.

Previous relief drives were held at KIPP's Northeast Campus on the 9600 block of Mesa Drive.

On Wednesday, 177 families were served, amounting to 931 people, according to numbers released by KIPP. Thus far, 4,549 people received aid through the recovery fairs, according to the charter network.

"We firmly believe that if we are working together with our families, with the community, that all together we can rise to make the world better," White said.

Participants included the Houston Food Bank, Catholic Charities, The Fountain of Praise Church and other area businesses and organizations. Parents of students enrolled in a KIPP school pitched in, as well.

"I think over here in this community, they need a lot of help. We try to do the best that we can," said Norma Venitez, whose two children attend KIPP's northeast campus.

The relief drive will continue Oct. 16 in the parking lot of The Fountain of Praise Ministry, located at 14075 S. Main St.