Church provides warm shelter, electricity for oxygen machines during Texas ice storm
By Lindsay Peyton
Missouri City’s Sienna resident Katrina Holm lost power at her home for 40 hours after the rare winter storm hit Texas. As soon as her utilities were restored, her thoughts shifted to her church, The Harvest UMC, where she also serves as Director of Business Operations. Holm and her father went to check on the building. As soon as she realized it was warm inside, she went to work turning the church into gathering place for neighbors without water or power.
“It’s not the work that is usually done by people with her title,” Senior Pastor Jeff McDowell said. “But in a crisis, all The Harvest staff swings into action.”
In her Sienna neighborhood, Holm said at least half the houses are without power. She has had electricity intermittently since the beginning of the storm.
“Once I realized it was warm in the church, it was on my heart that we needed to do something,” Holm said. “People were freezing. The church is so embedded in the community. We needed to step up and get out there.”
On Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, The Harvest put a call out on social media, “We have power and heat and warm coffee for anyone who needs it! Lots of outlets to charge your devices too.”
Immediately, guests began arriving. Between 30 and 40 showed up during the day, charging their devices and warming up. A few people took the church up on using WiFi, plugged in and were able to work during the day.
Volunteers from the congregation brewed coffee and served snacks. In the evening, they ordered pizzas for all.
A few families stayed overnight. Holm said that there were plenty of classrooms in the church. While some guests brought their own blankets and air mattresses, the congregation had bedding available as well.
“We just opened our doors and had staff there to help,” Holm said.
McDowell said that Holm helped set everything up and even volunteered to stay overnight. “We’ve decided to keep the building open as long as we have power and water – and people need it,” he added.
Holm said that now a few residents from Fresno, a neighboring community in Fort Bend County showed up. “They were super appreciative,” she said. “It was very rewarding and heartwarming.”
A few elderly residents also called in need of electricity for their oxygen machines. In the emergency situation, the church was ready to respond.
“That made me feel good,” Holm said. “This is why we’re doing this, so they don’t have to worry. It felt like, even if we were able to help one person, it was well worth it.”