Y1 Young Harvey Helpers
Students from elementary school through college are providing enthusiastic hands-on support in the Texas flood relief efforts.
When a group at Fairfield UMC gathered to assemble 52 cleaning buckets for Harvey flood victims, even the youngsters wanted to lend a hand. “It was a family affair. We had three generations working together that day,” shares Rev. Richard Hayduck. Having been in Houston during Tropical Storm Allison, we know what it is like to have a river running down your street and were happy to be a part of the recovery – from afar.”
Member Jane Phillips brought her Labor Day houseguests and three grandchildren to help and they were done in less than two hours. “They left a fun ranch to do this and were perfectly happy to be helping others, in fact they made a game out of filling the cleaning buckets,” says Jane. “My granddaughter and I helped distribute clothes at the hotel where 900 evacuees were staying.”
Rev. Collin Taylor, pastor of Grace UMC Heights was thankful his church escaped the rising water and knew his congregation and community would be eager to help others as fast as possible. The church posted on Next Door and Facebook and reached out to several mom groups and organized a response immediately.
“We’ve done three sessions to assemble flood buckets and since over half our congregation is young families, we had many children involved,” shares Collin. “My seven- and four-year-old’s are still talking about it, and my 20-month-old son even helped take things out of the buckets when we weren’t looking.” Pastor Taylor felt it was important to get the youngsters involved to teach the importance of helping others with this clean-up process in their homes.
“Putting these buckets together is an easy and tangible way they can be involved, but since so many children assisted we had to have a church member audit the contents before we sent them out, to make sure they had the right elements.”
Before the epic August rains had cleared out, young members of St Luke’s UMC Houston were already thinking of others. When six-year-old Ava Wood heard the call for help on TV, she wanted to go rescue people. She immediately dropped to her knees and fervently asked God “to save all the people.” When leaving for church Ava came out of her room with a full plastic cup of coins and sat in church anxiously waiting for the time when she could make her contribution. “I felt chagrined,” admits her mom, “that while I had always given, it had never been with such joy.”
St. Luke’s member Parker Broach also approached the great need with great enthusiasm. Parker, 11, helped stuff the family van full of towels, blankets and other items and set out to deliver everything to the city’s central shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center. With strong wind gusts rocking the van, the family was forced to turn around and go home. The following morning Parker wanted to deliver the collected items and stay and help people at the shelter, so organizers allowed him to help set up the kid zone. Parker sorted and cleaned toys, set up a library, and created an arts and crafts space. Parker and mom, Jamie, facilitated games like four square, red light, green light, basketball, and statues. As Jamie said, “This opportunity was perfect for a young volunteer and provided much needed physical activity for kids and a break for their parents.” Since that day, Parker has not stopped volunteering. He has helped to muck houses, collected and sorted more donations, and volunteered at the Gethsemane UMC campus by helping set up the mercy closet and sorting donations there. St. Luke’s teen Ava Swietzer shares her story here on video.
When roads were passable, youth from FUMC Pearland went out with several volunteer teams to help with demo and cleanup for homes in Pearland.
“Help with work teams was a very sad, but humbling experience,” says 18-year-old high school senior Madison Lloyd. “Volunteering is such a blessing to me and makes me thankful that I was able to help others in need.”
Thanks to her Hurricane clean-up efforts, 12-year-old Tara Woeste, member of FUMC Friendswood, is now known as a carpet cutting ninja. She also helped host a bake sale that raised $1,000 for a family that lost everything. Says Tara, “God wants others to see Him in us. That’s why we have been working to clean out flooded homes and make meals.” When school was cancelled, her 15-year-old brother Trevor, joined the sheetrock removal brigade and shared his youthful energy with elderly homeowners. “It’s always good to help people in times of need,” he says. “Harvey caused so much destruction, so my family wanted to help make flood victims’ lives better.”
When McKinney Memorial UMC member Carol Johnson told her son-in-law about church members that flooded in the La Marque area, he gathered a group of students from College of the Mainland students to lend a hand. “This was a good way to teach young people to give back to the community,” shares Greg Benefield, academic advisor at the college, “and they gave their all for at least eight hours as we visited several homes in need. Everyone was exhausted but felt rewarded and appreciated, and grateful they were not in a flooded situation themselves.”
FUMC Brenham youth helped in the widespread aftermath of Harvey by bringing school supplies to Summer Creek High School in Humble, to help replace all the supplies lost when Kingwood High School flooded. They also prayed for all the students, teachers, administrators, custodial staff, nutrition staff, bus drivers, and parents as they working together, to make their school year the best it can be.
Since the church escaped major flooding damage, Westbury UMC quickly organized work groups to help the community and discovered a very practical need the church could fill. After learning that the local elementary school would postpone the student start date, Westbury stepped up and organized a free day camp called Camp Harvey serving 70 kids a day during the two-week hiatus. “From morning until afternoon, the children enjoyed activities such as guitar lessons, crafts and music which helped take their minds off of flooding for a while and gave their parents time to organize a plan to put their residences back together.”