By now, we’ve all seen the pictures. People frantically attempting to flee their Houston homes as the water rises…and rises…and rises. The devastation of Hurricane Harvey was widespread and horrific. It was the worst of the worst weather an American city has endured, and it brought out the best of the best of the American spirit in people. From the Cajun Navy to the local real estate agents relaying SOS messages via Facebook, it’s not something we’ll soon forget.
If you weren’t in Texas at the time, all you could do was look on in horror at the news reports. And the need to do something, anything, was as strong as it’s ever been.
So first, although we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Thank you. Thank you to the C21 Redwood agents who reached out to their networks and collected much needed materials and money for the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. Thank you to our partners, friends, and fellow community members for all the donations that you engulfed our office with. Thank you to My Guys Moving for all their contributions, including the transportation of these precious items to the people who need them most.
Each package delivered was another way of saying to those survivors, “We see you, we care, and we’re here for you.” And each package and check symbolized the greater community we have here in the Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland area. Collectively, you gave:
Over 53,000 diapersOver 40,000 baby wipesOver 49,000 ounces of baby formulaOver 1000 lbs of dog foodOver 40 gallons of bleachPlus countless toiletries, dog beds, adults diapers, cleaning supplies, trash bags …the list goes on and on…
One of our Redwood Ashburn agents, Rebecca Vittitow, had a first-hand look at the destruction Harvey left behind in Houston. When you’re with Century 21, you’re all family, so reaching out to a fellow Century 21 office in Houston was just like reaching out to a family member. Rebecca was introduced to Kevin Vader, broker of Century 21 Top Realty in Houston, TX, by our Chief Financial Officer and co-founder, Nick Pasquini.
Leaving on September 11, an emotional ordeal in itself, Rebecca landed in Houston to join Kevin. Along with her interior decorator friend, Dinna Eckstein of Audrey Kate Design Solutions, who’d recently moved in to Houston, and Rob Gutierrez, also of Century 21 Top Realty, Rebecca spent 4 full days working alongside everyone else who had shown up to lend a hand in the hopes of getting people back on their feet.
They started at the house of a high school friend of Rob’s, who had literally lost everything. It wasn’t the last scene of utter loss and destruction Rebecca saw before she left.
Imagine this for a moment: The sky is dark, the rain hasn’t stopped, there’s water creeping slowly into your house, and everyone on the TV, radio and internet is telling you to, “Get out now!” You don’t know where to go and you don’t know what to take with you. You step onto a stranger’s boat, clutching perhaps your purse or briefcase, or a bunch of documents, maybe a favorite memento or sentimental picture, and you leave. You get transported to a church or a gymnasium or a school, assigned a cot, and you sit and you wait. When the all clear’s finally given, you return to a house full of mud and debris. Your cars and appliances are completely ruined. All your tangible memories – heirlooms passed down for generations, wedding gowns, baby blankets, kids’ artwork, parents’ photos – (not to mention every piece of furniture) are waterlogged and ruined. Your house will have to have at least 3 feet or more of drywall completely removed; the walls are ruined. Looking down, you realize your flooring’s ruined. Everything is…RUINED.
The people who lived that scenario are the people Rebecca met when, with her group, she went door-to-door in these shattered neighborhoods as people tried to make sense of their new normal. Driving through the different areas, Rebecca said, “Everybody’s lives were on the corner.” Rebecca helped with the necessary demolition of people’s ground floors, and delivered food to different neighborhoods.
When we’re at our lowest, it’s often when the best in people is brought out, and this is no different. Strangers are banding together, forming groups, teaming up to create new lives for the people who’ve suffered through this horrific tragedy. Rebecca said people’s attitudes were amazing – neighbors helping neighbors without being asked, saying, “I have help coming tomorrow; let me help you today.”
Ask Rebecca how it feels to be there, on the ground, amid all of this and she responds, “It’s a mix of emotions. There are tears and pain, of course, but there’s also a sense of wonder and pride in the strength everyone is showing, and an overall sense of community in everything we do.”
Rebecca returned back to the D.C. area after 4 days of hard work in Houston. Sadly, that doesn’t even begin to touch the amount of work that’s still left to be done there. Fewer than 10% of the people affected had flood insurance. The amount of money provided by the federal government won’t begin to get people back on their feet, and there’s no end in sight to the work left to be done before people can even consider rebuilding.
Family helps family, and it was an honor to have one of our Century 21 Redwood agents work side by side with our Century 21 brethren in Houston. Thank you especially to Kevin Vader, who took the time to coordinate parts of Rebecca’s trip and who helped a fellow C21 agent help others.
It was also awe-inspiring to see our local community rise up to help those in need. The ripple effect from your kindness is just beginning to be felt – remember, even one small act has an enormous impact on many people’s lives. Ultimately, events like these serve to remind us that no person is a stranger in our world, and community is everything. Thank you for being a part of that community.