Kingwood mother helps teacher community affected by Hurricane Harvey

KINGWOOD, Texas – As KPRC takes time to remember all of those who, in one way or another, helped those in the community during and after Hurricane Harvey, one Kingwood mother’s efforts to help teachers affected by Harvey stands out.

Ann Marie Sayegh galvanized her family and friends to help the unsung heroes of their community -- the teachers who were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Her efforts touched the lives of many teachers who are now getting ready to face a new school year.

“I thought, to make a difference, since we did not flood, as a family, we could pull this together,” Sayegh said.

Sayegh, a mother of three students in Humble Independent School District, felt the pain of the teachers who were struggling to recover after Harvey.

“All the teachers had to drive 26 miles to a new school,” Sayegh said.

After Kingwood’s first and second floor were ruined by the storm, teachers and students lost their school for a whole school year. Many teachers lost supplies and some lost everything they had in their classrooms.

“Everything was in disarray,” said David Kniess, who teaches German at Kingwood High School. “The school was flooded and we had 10 feet of water at the house.”

After Harvey, Kniess found his home in shambles. He was forced to start over. Even his workplace was a reminder of all the cleanup that needed to be done and all the students who were also suffering.

“The school being flooded was definitely the worst,” Kniess said.

Sayegh calls the teachers the unsung heroes of Kingwood and Humble ISD.

“Well, they flooded, and they’re teaching our kids,” Sayegh said.

Feeling the pain of those who experienced loss, she decided that she and her family would do something for the teachers.

“All the teachers had to drive, like, 26 miles to a new school. So I just felt like, if we could raise some money to offer a gas card of $50, then that was our goal,” Sayegh said.

She and her designer friend and Texas Promowear, a small T-shirt printing company in Humble, designed a gray shirt labeled, “Kingwood STRONG.”

“Our thing was 'Kingwood Strong.' However we can do that, let’s try to portray 'Kingwood Strong,'” Sayegh said.

Little did she know, her idea turned into something much bigger than she would have ever expected.

“The response kept coming in: 'We want more shirts. We want more shirts,'” Sayegh said.

After selling shirts from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., she began selling them through a local shop. She, her friends and her family members sold shirts at events, schools and online. Texas Promowear kept up with the demand.

“I would call them on Monday. ‘Here’s my inventory. This is what I need.’ By Thursday, they would have it, so we can sell that weekend,” Sayegh said.

Her idea caught on and soon, instead of gas cards, she was distributing cash gifts. Instead of just Kingwood High School, she raised money for the whole Kingwood area, reaching 74 teachers in more than a dozen schools.

“We sold over 2,000 T-shirts and made over $12,000,” Sayegh said.

Eventually, her son, 13-year-old Anthony, helped her pass out the money and shirts.

“Whatever teachers could do with that money, they could do,” Sayegh said. “We did this for them.”

Kingwood High School teacher Glenda Rice said the money helped her family get food and clothes.

“I don’t know if you can ever know how much what they did meant to all of us,” Rice said.

“I took that money and went straight to Lowe's and bought a single-unit air conditioner,” Kniess said.

Sayegh said that the shirts symbolize the strength and the positivity that came after Harvey. She said her community will move forward together.

“It’s a good life lesson on giving, which we’re teaching our kids,” Sayegh said.

Sayegh and her team also inspired others.

“What it taught me is that, if something like this should happen again in another situation where I’m not directly affected, I want to be that Harvey hero,” Rice said.