New Orleans volunteer teams assist flood recovery efforts in Houston

When Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas gulf coast in August, images and news coverage of inundated neighborhoods in Houston hit very close to home for many New Orleanians who recalled not-too-distant memories of Katrina recovery.

After Katrina, the Preservation Resource Center and the PRC’s Rebuilding Together New Orleans program helped to lead recovery efforts in the Crescent City. Our neighbors in Houston were also a major asset to post-Katrina recovery, providing refuge for thousands of displaced families and sending volunteer teams and donations to help with recovery in the weeks, months, and years following the storm.

Last weekend, a team of staff members and volunteers from the Preservation Resource Center and Rebuilding Together New Orleans took a road trip to Houston to provide their knowledge, skills and manpower to affected homeowners in Houston. The trip was partially underwritten by the Home Depot Foundation.

A team of 15 Rebuilding Together New Orleans staff and volunteers assisted Rebuilding Together Houston for four days, training volunteer teams and providing manpower to begin recovery efforts on flooded homes. Lessons learned from flood recovery in New Orleans proved to be invaluable as the RTNO team walked volunteers through the process of mucking, gutting, and remediating mold in flooded homes.

“We had a really good crew together and it was a good mix of Americorps [volunteers] and staff,” said Kat Schweitzer, RTNO’s volunteer manager. “It ended up being a very beneficial trip.” In total, the team worked on 12 different homes across the Houston metro.

While the RTNO crew worked to recover flooded homes, PRC’s Maria Huete and Mary Kelly-Swafford delivered care packages to 14 PRC members in Houston and the surrounding area. Care packages included a few practical items as well as several uplifting treats reminiscent of New Orleans – Zapps potato chips, pralines, jambalaya mix – to let Houstonians know that the PRC, and all of New Orleans, is thinking about them during their time of need.

“What a terrific surprise in the mail – a bag of goodies from PRC – a perfect blend of feel-good fixes,” wrote one homeowner who received a care package. “It’s the little things that make the big things smaller.”

Houston might be recovering from Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath for years to come, but with the help and support of neighbors across the Gulf Coast, Houston can be sure that they won’t have to rely solely on themselves for recovery. Their neighbors in New Orleans are ready to return the gratitude that we were shown in the wake of Katrina 12 years ago.

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