Fifteen Blackboard employees drove into Houston from Austin on September 15 to assist in the ongoing clean up after Hurricane Harvey. Several employees based in Austin and elsewhere in central Texas had spent time helping family and friends affected by Harvey though this was the first coordinated effort as a group. By way of our personal connections with a community service group in Houston, we identified a neighborhood on the Northeast side of the city that was in dire need of volunteer help. Our team packed five vehicles with tools and supplies and headed to that area to help, not knowing exactly what the situation would be.

The drive into Houston on the expressways would have led you to believe that the city wasn’t feeling the effects of the hurricane, but two minutes after our highway exit, we turned the corner into a neighborhood that reflected the exact hardships we have all seen on the news coverage.

On average, homes in this area had been submerged in knee-level water. After a few weeks, many had yet to remove sheetrock, large furniture or flooring. Some were physically unable to do work on their homes, and others were attempting to wait on city and government help. We had been given names of people in the neighborhood that were in particular need of help. We introduced ourselves to owners, assessed their needs and got started at two houses within minutes of arrival.

We pulled many walls of sheetrock, hundreds of square feet of flooring and extracted cabinetry and appliances that had been damaged beyond repair. One house needed all the wood flooring torn out, which required some relatively back-breaking work. Another house’s wood floor had buckled so bad that the owner was unable to even open their front door. This was no longer just a quality of life issue, but also a major health issue for these home owners.

The team went into Houston accepting the challenge that lay ahead and embraced the difficult work we were met with. We came armed with energy and optimism and left exhausted, but our hearts were full of the appreciation that was shown by the homeowners. We were happy to give to a community that needed help so desperately, although we know this was a small gesture in what will be a very long road to back to normal for the people we met.

 

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