Hurricane Harvey - Putnam Sentinel
Columbus Grove High School Junior Amelia Page (center) standing with a volunteer organizing donated supplies (left) and Sheri (right), a local artist who owns a glass art business on the island of Port Aransas. (photo submitted)

COLUMBUS GROVE — As an area that has dealt with its own flooding issues well knows, recovery is a community effort. Family is almost always the first to respond, followed shortly by friends and neighbors. Depending on the nature of the disaster, a number of local, state and federal government agencies and nonprofits will often spring into action as well.

Then, there are the strangers. Those moved to action by they reports they see on the news or internet, or a personal connection to a particular area. They typically bring with them much needed supplies, a willingness to do whatever may be needed and a reserve of energy that can provide a boost to locals who have temporarily exhausted their own.

Strangers are who Columbus Grove High School Junior Amelia Page, her parents Jeremy and Monica Price, along with family friend Trina Ball were when they arrived in Port Aransas, Texas a barrier island that took the brunt of Harvey’s impact. They were not expected. They were not invited. They chose on their own to go for two reasons - because they knew help was needed, and they knew that they could help.

“We were told Port Aransas had been devastated,” Monica says, “So we decided, let’s focus our efforts there. A small island, it’s only one and half miles wild. Just imagine a category five hurricane hitting a small island like that - it’s going to be devastating.”

Texas has had a little more than seven weeks of clean-up since the storm, but Port Aransas has only had four weeks. For the first three weeks, no one was allowed back on the island as the water had not completely receded.

A central location organizing volunteers on Port Aransas had already been established. Many residents had been supplied with “pods,” small containers for organizing and storing what is salvageable. The group was told that they would be helping a local resident, Marie, move a few items into her pod. They ended up doing much more.

“She had three holes in her roof. The patched it up before we got there. The put a new roof on it, but [the home] was still [severely damaged],” describes Amelia. A retired teacher, Marie had collected a variety of numerous items in her home, most of which could not be preserved. The majority of the day was spent clearing Marie’s home of what needed to be thrown away.

The group was able to provide one long, full day of effort towards helping Marie clean out her home. They also dispersed the $1,242 donated by the Columbus Grove community to residents in need. They purchased packing supplies for Marie. They funded the purchase of a wet saw for an artist who owns a glass art business. They bought water, drinks and food from Sam’s Club and gave it away to other volunteers and residents. They gave money directly to residents that needed it. Such as the waiter at one of the very few open restaurants who had lost his apartment and was living with his parents, and a local who had lost nearly everything, and still has spent every day helping his neighbors remove debris.

“When I left, I felt good that we did something. I’m glad that we went down there and did something. I wanted to help. I wanted to get my hands dirty,” says Amelia, followed quickly by, “I want to go back.” The family is keeping in contact with Marie and hope to make at least one return trip in the new year.

As recently reported in the Houston Chronicle, the recovery effort from Hurricane Harvey remains ongoing and could take upto 20 months to recover and rebuild damaged properties at an estimated cost of up to $180 billion. Time Magazine reported on October 1 that there were still 60,000 people living out of hotels. At that time, more than 834,800 people in Texas had applied for FEMA assistance, with 298,000 having so far been approved. Numerous residents in Port Aransas are living out of tents, though some FEMA housing has been provided. By the time the cleanup is complete in Texas, officials anticipate between 200 and 300 million cubic yards of debris will have been removed.