Baltimore, MD – Sept. 5, 2017 - On Friday afternoon, Sept. 1, 2017, Congregations Ohel Moshe and Shomrei Emunah sent an email to their members asking for volunteers who could fly to Houston on Sunday and Monday and help with the relief effort for 2 days. 10 people responded that they could fly to Houston on Sunday morning and return on Monday night. 9 more people responded that they could fly to Houston on Monday morning and return on Tuesday night. A representative from  both Ohel Moshe and Shomrei Emunah coordinated group flights and a 12 passenger van to get us around Houston.

On Motzei Shabbos we went to pick up supplies for the first group. The first group met at Shomrei at 5:30 AM on Sunday and went in two cars to Dulles airport. We took a United flight directly to Houston. When we arrived at Houston, a local picked us up in our rental van and we went to Beren Academy, where they had a relief center set up.

At the relief center, they had a supply room, manned by volunteers who were giving out supplies to people in need and volunteer work groups. They also had a command center where they were coordinating the volunteers and sending them to various houses to help with tasks like demolition, packing, cleaning, and moving furniture. The relief center at Beren was also making meals for people who were affected by the flood and for volunteers from out of town. Volunteer groups came from all over the world, literally. There were groups from Israel, San Diego, Dallas, New York, as well as local groups from areas not affected by the flood. Gil Horowitz also flew in with 2 of his children to lend a hand.

As we drove to Beren from the airport, the city looked pretty normal. Our local guide pointed out areas of the highway that were under water a week prior. Then, when we approached the location of our first job, the devastation was much more noticeable. Every home that was flooded had a huge pile of demolition garbage piled in front. There were huge piles of drywall, furniture, and flooring.

We went to our first house, and the homeowners had already ripped out the drywall and the floor. The house smelled damp and moldy and we needed masks because of the fumes. The owner asked for help taking down heavy wooden doors that were even heavier because they were waterlogged up to the doorknobs. We also helped people pack their items into boxes, as they needed to move out of their homes for several months while they were being renovated. In addition, we helped remove flooring and drywall from several homes, because the homeowners had just returned from out of town. Back at the HQ at Beren high school, we helped unload trucks, including the one from Seasons in Baltimore!!

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Many thanks to the anonymous benefactors who covered the cost of our flights and van rental. We could not have done this without you. Likewise, we owe thanks to the people who donated to the fund that allowed us to purchase necessary tools. Group 2, who came on Monday, was dropped off at Reagan airport by Rabbi Soskill from Beth Tfiloh in their minibus early Monday morning and picked up from BWI at 12AM on Wednesday. Thanks to BT for making that available to us. We were very grateful to the people who helped provide food, including Texas Kosher BBQ from Dallas and Southside Sandwich Shop from Lakewood. Baltimore’s very own Fishel Gross of O’fishel Caterers also came to help out on Tuesday. We also want to thank the gracious hosts who put us up on Sunday and Monday night. Likewise, we want to thank the coordinators at Beren who worked morning to night organizing the volunteer groups. Finally, we want to thank the two very modest individuals from Ohel Moshe & Shomrei Emunah, who organized the flight, found a rental van, and lead each of the groups during our trip.

What is going on in Houston now and what/how can you help?

Most of the city is back to normal and people are trying to get back into their daily routine, especially areas that were not flooded too badly.

Demolition work in most of the affected areas has already been completed and they are now packing things up and moving out so they can start rebuilding.

These areas need moving supplies (boxes, bubble wrap, packing paper). They also need trucks to move stuff into storage. These homes desperately need MoldX or similar mold prevention chemicals. They also need help packing and moving.

Some people could not get to their homes until this week. Those people are racing the clock to get the drywall and floors out before mold sets in.

These people need help with demolition. Many are elderly and cannot do the heavy work themselves. Most of the for-profit crews are too busy and insurance has not yet begun issuing payments. If you can go down there and help, that would be great.

Bottom line: supplies are flowing in steadily. Some shortages I know of are packing boxes, packing paper, electric saws, and MoldX.

You can also send money. Much of the damage will be covered by mandatory flood insurance. However, some homeowners have damage in excess of their policies. Also, some things are not covered by flood insurance. In addition, many people need to find places to stay while their homes are being remediated. Many people also lost time from work or had to close their businesses for a week. If you can’t donate your time, help purchase supplies for those who can.

We wish the community of Houston much hatzlacha in the months and years ahead. May they all be inscribed for a year of health, happiness and prosperity and may they never again suffer any misfortune.


(Photo Credit: The Volunteers)