Last month my hometown of Houston was hit with a devastating storm that brought wind and rain like the city has never seen. The annual rainfall came down with vengeance in 5 days! 5 days! Hurricane's have always had an erie impact on my life: my mother was born during Hurricane Carla which ranks as the most intense U.S. tropical cyclone landfall, Hurricane Alicia was 9 months before I was born (and that's all I'm going to say about that), I was one of the over 2.5 MILLION people that evacuated during Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Sandy delayed my flight back home to Houston which ultimately made me decide to stay with my sister and move to Jersey City.
Growing up in Houston you are taught at a very young age to deal with these type of storms. The house I grew up in would flood every time there was a thunderstorm. I remember swimming in the streets of my neighborhood during flash floods. Heavy rainfall, flooding, stocking up on water and processed food, moving furniure up to "high & dry" surfaces, knowing where the fire safe box with our birth certificates was located, were all normalcies of growing up on the Gulf Coast. However, nothing, nothing prepares you for what Harvey did to my dear sweet hometown.
When you hear Houston, you don't think beach. On the contrary not only is Houston surrounded by an intricate network of creeks, bayous and lakes but the Gulf of Mexico lies within 40 miles of downtown. As a child, I grew up on the water learning to fish and boat with my father.
Being over 1,300 miles away, my heart broke watching 24 hour news coverage just waiting. That's the terror of a Hurricane, you sit and wait. Once the devastation was realized I knew I had to do something, but what? I had previously planned a trip to Austin with my South House family for Labor Day weekend, but the thought of throwing back Shiners while my friends and family were suffering was unthinkable. My first plan of action was to stuff my two free checked bags on my Southwest flight with donations and figure out a way to get it down to Houston. My next thought was to reach out to my friends traveling on the same flight to offer up their checked bags, which they graciously did.
I decided to use the JJ Watt method of fundraising and use my platform & social media following as a way to reach more people. I immediately received responses from my local business owner friends about how they could help. My friend Neil stepped up to the plate more than I ever could imagine. With his experience in community organizing he reached out to local businesses directly and grew our platform even larger. By Wednesday the salon was full and with the support from Jersey City and beyond and with the help from AndCo we were able to start storing and organizing the donations.
We were receiving donations from complete strangers to the salon; people were opening up their wallets and hearts and giving whatever they could. We had people driving in from other parts of Jersey & Long Island with cars full of donations. Through all of this I was meeting more Houston natives that now call the east coast home and they shared the same sentiment of survivors guilt, but together we were able to do our part and help from afar.
Friday night Neil and I were joined by a group of amazing Jersey City residents including one very special little girl, who packed, taped and labeled over 100 boxes of donations. I can't even put into words the amount of love and support our city poured out. In our current state of affairs, it was a beautiful site to see the human spirit in a positive light. We decided our best option was to drive the goods down to Houston ourselves and after failed attempts to seek donations from Uhaul and Penske to cover the cost of the truck, I pulled out my card and took care of business. #penskeprofited I say this simply to show this was a pure grassroots effort, this was people helping people. We saw a need and did what we could.
What started out as one simple thought turned into a beautiful act of kindness by countless Americans to help out a city thousands of miles away. As a business owner I was able to use my platform in a positive way and most importantly hit the road and ensure these donations made it directly to the people.
This journey doesn't end here, it's only just the beginning. I ask you to use your power/status/strengths/positions in life for good not evil and when you are in a position to help, do it.
To be continued...