Inside Hurricane Harvey Relief | The Real Story | September 5, 2017

After a crazy couple of weeks of shooting, back to school and busy family life activies, I told J all I wanted to do this Labor day weekend was rest.  Let’s do nothing – cookout.  Have kids over.  But all week long, J and I had watched, with the rest of America, while our Houston neighbors lost homes, pets, businesses.  Lives.  We’d donated, like so many, but both of us had been feeling like we were to do something physically.  We just didn’t know what.

Early Saturday morning, on Facebook, I saw a friend from church post that she was taking down supplies to friends and family in a community near Cypress.  I commented and told her how proud I was and that I wished we were there too.  She simply replied:  then come!  I looked at J, he looked at me.  A thousand thoughts ran through our heads:  Who am I?  Would we be in the way?  So last minute – shouldn’t we leave this to the professionals?  Yet, news reports showed that government workers can’t get to all the work.  They need citizens, working with Churches and volunteer organizations, to step in and help.  Houston was only 3.5 hours away.

In about 30 seconds, we made the decision.  We were willing, able.  Friends of ours in Austin would not only host us for the night, they were willing to watch our son and dog so we could take the girls and show them what it meant to serve others firsthand.  I looked online, found what donations were truly still needed, sent out a quick message to neighbors on our street telling them what we were doing.  Several donated money and supplies.  I went to local stores and cleared the shelves of underwear and socks.  Cleaning supplies and hygiene items.  And we headed out.

As a Photographer, I felt the importance of documenting our journey.  We’ve all seen many negative reports – but I had a feeling this wasn’t the real story, the headline story.  Sadly, there are people who will take advantage of brokenness, but MOST of us will band together and help.  My primary objective was to work and respect the individual privacy of those who’ve suffered.  So, I used my iPhone and an old camera, taking only a few images to share the story we experienced.  What we found encouraged our hearts and told the truth about the American spirit.  It’s alive.  Well.  And thriving in Houston.

On our way!

Her heart is a lot like her Mommas.  Burdened by need.

We were told most of the water has receded.  But this was what it still looked like Sunday morning in between Katy and Cypress.  Side of the highway.

When spent the morning helping a local school organize donations for a school that had been flooded.  We donated most of what we’d brought here, as the families and teachers needed to start over from scratch.  It was such a flurry of activity, car after car pulling up and dropping off donations, that I didn’t photograph here.  It would have felt disrespectful and dishonoring.

That afternoon, we joined a local church, The Met’s Hurricane Harvey Relief team.  We were so incredibly grateful to the Pastors and Staff that let us fold right in to their group.
What a fantastic church and group of servants!

Neighbors and strangers, serving elderly home owners.  Bringing cookies and food.  Banding together.  Young, old, every color – every religion (we saw Mormons, Sikh’s, Christians working side by side).  None of that mattered.  People, were helping people.  Smiling, laughing.  Caring for one another.
Y’all – this is the real America.
A lifetime of acquiring, spilled out on lawns.
Again, trying to respect privacy, I’ve blurred faces.  But I had to document, the yellow shirt gentlemen were a part of a Mormon Church that had brought in a van of helpers.
We saw them literally pull onto a street and pile out of a van asking home owners if they could assist.
This type of help is happening everywhere.
Outside of the home we worked in.  The owners had sustained heavy damage on the first floor.  Almost everything was lost.  Floors and walls were ripped out 3-4 feet high.
The homeowners were so wonderful.  For the first time in my life, I experienced what it felt like to interact with strangers with walls down, doors open.  We walked up, shook hands and entered into their home after a brief introduction.  I embraced the homeowner and she smiled warmly sharing how after years of helping her elderly neighbors, she now was the recipient of strangers helping her.  And that she wished she had something to offer, to give back in return.  Her husband shook my husband’s hand and told him, when we are ever in crisis, he’s coming up to help.  Smiling now, not even knowing their names, this opportunity did more for our hearts than any gift ever could.
Everyone is doing something.  Houston is hot, humid.  These sweet Girl Scouts walked around handing out popsicles to every home.  For free.  (I did get permission to take these photos.)

My sweeties.  Gloved up and going in.  Even with two of the same glove.  Lol!

Post demo.  We’re now nail removing pros. 🙂
Many thanks, again, to The Met Pastors’ Christian, Brad and Scott who let us join their serve team.  If you are local(ish) to the Houston area and want to help, please visit their website and sign up to serve.  You can access that link here:  Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts.

If you are looking to donate items, I’d highly recommend checking with local sources first.  The needs are changing hourly.  Most churches, shelters, etc., are no longer taking water and clothing – due to the overwhelming generosity.  Gift cards are extremely helpful.  As of today, this article still had relevant information, but I would recommend doing online research prior to donating specifically to an organization:  The Texas Tribune.

Texas natives:  we weren’t born here, but we’re so glad we landed here.  We love being Texans.  We love your heart, spirit and how you care for one another.  The Panza’s are so very glad and grateful to call this place home.

With gratitude,


SOME Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts & Places to Donate:
The Met Church, Cypress, TX
The American Red Cross (or text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10)
Texas Workers Relief Fund
Samaritan’s Purse
Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation | Rebuild Tx Fund

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