As Texans continue to deal with the losses of their homes and businesses, more and more local organizations are stepping up their long-term relief efforts to aid those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The number of Forsyth County churches and other organizations who have pledged to help rebuild Texans’ lives is increasing daily, many of which urge residents to donate “flood buckets” and cleaning supplies that will be brought to Houston and other affected areas.
“It’s only just beginning,” Midway United Methodist Church Pastoral Ministry Assistant Julia Murray said. “Disaster response follows a pretty specific pattern, and a lot of people want to do something fast, but then they don’t have plan, so we’re making a very intentional effort in ours.
“[Texas residents] have years of work ahead of them, and we want to keep this in front of people and keep the effort going because it’s going to be greatly needed and greatly needed for a long time.”
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service announced that Cedar Bayou, an area about 150 miles southwest of Houston’s center, broke the continental U.S. record for rainfall, receiving nearly 52 inches of rain between the time Harvey made landfall late Friday night and when the latest recording was measured Wednesday.
Clear Creek, a bayside area less than 25 miles south of Houston, received the second largest amount of rain — 49.4 inches.
Still, rescue workers have begun block-by-block searches on tens of thousands of flooded Houston homes, looking for anyone who may have been left behind, The Associational Press reported.
The loss of power at a chemical plant set off explosions on Thursday that prompted a public health warning, and searchers will continue to look for any bodies that could have come from that. Officials said it could take up to two weeks to check all neighborhoods that were submerged by more than four feet of rain.
Rescuers are trying to save animals, too, as they go, and local pet organizations are urging residents to give aid in the form of pet food and medical supplies.
Cumming-based nonprofit Save the Horses said they are coordinating with the Salvation Army and National Guard to bring food, veterinarians, leashes, halters and other animal equipment to Texas in upcoming days. They have two local donation drop-off sites set up.
Many of the Texas animals are still trapped in homes, about 7,000 of which have been destroyed and 37,000 that have suffered major damage, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The number is expected to increase.
“My in-laws said where they are, the water is still rising,” Murray said, “and where the water is drying up, the work is only starting.”
That work includes cleaning, filing insurance claims, finding shelter if an area is unlivable and slowly rebuilding.
For years, United Methodist churches across the country have helped create “flood buckets,” which have been donated to numerous disaster victims of Hurricane Katrina and other floods to Kansas and other Midwestern tornado victims, Murray said.
The buckets contain a very specific list of supplies, such as a scrub brush, dust masks, rubber gloves, work gloves, liquid household cleaner, clotheslines and clothespins, insect repellent and more, and each item is chosen carefully, not only for its function — non-cellulose sponges don’t harbor mold like common household sponges — but for its size. The supplies go in 5-pound Home Depot or Lowe’s buckets.
“These supplies are the first line of defense in getting [residents’] homes clean and safe again as soon as possible,” said Midway’s pastor, Stacey Hanson, “so we want to provide as many as we possibly can. We need the public’s help to maximize success, so we’ve made it easy for anyone to walk into our partner store and get exactly what’s needed.”
Midway Ace Hardware and Midway Walmart are currently displaying flood bucket supplies along with printed lists of items to fill the buckets with.
Ace Hardware is also giving a 10 percent discount on any supplies purchased for donation, and Walmart customers can shop online and have the donated items sent straight to the store for pickup by the church. Both stores also have collection bins for donated items.
“We’ll be doing this for two weeks, and the first will probably be the biggest,” Murray said. “We want everybody, even outside the church, to participate, and here’s how to make it happen. It’s just a great communitywide effort.”