Finding Love, Hope and Community in the Aftermath of Hurricane HarveyEmail This Share This Tweet This
by Alison Young, Director of Development of SpringSpirit, as told to TMF
No one expected the amount of rain, flooding, and devastation that Hurricane Harvey wreaked across Houston, Texas when it came ashore August 25, 2017. The city was shut-down in many places because roads were impassable. Schools were closed for an extended period of time. And while the worst of the flooding was elsewhere in the city, we still had 11 families in our area that experienced substantial damage and looked to SpringSpirit for help. Because it is part of our mission to care for the entire community we serve, we began fundraising to meet this unexpected need. TMF matched our own fundraising efforts, so we could assist these families after we determined they could not receive help from other sources. But, the story about how the larger SpringSpirit community responded to their neighbors whose homes were destroyed lifted our hearts.
SpringSpirit is a K-12 sports, education, and mentoring nonprofit organization based on Christian principles located in Spring Branch, an economically-disadvantaged neighborhood on the city’s northwest side. A large population of Hispanic families whose children may struggle with English, academics, and qualify for free or reduced price meals at school live nearby. The school district considers a majority of the children to be at risk for not graduating from high school, but we believe these children have untapped potential, which is why we have been investing in the entire community’s well-being. We are non-denominational and welcome everyone. Through our community center and programs, we provide a safe place where children can work toward the realization of their God-given talents and passions because each individual is precious in God’s sight.
When we were first starting out and before the storm hit, we encouraged Spring Branch parents to volunteer, but they didn’t have that word in their vocabulary. Many didn’t speak English well, and the concept was foreign. Many of them were so busy working trying to provide for their families that making time was hard. We wondered if they saw the value in what we were doing to help their children and bring the community together. It took time for the community to see how our work with their children through sports, afterschool tutorials, and spiritual formation was our way of spreading God’s love.
Hurricane Harvey turned everything upside down. South and adjacent to Spring Branch is the Memorial neighborhood that SpringSpirit draws on for donors, mentors, and volunteers to make our work possible. This area of town with its lush lawns and expensive homes was devastated by flooding after the storm when Buffalo Bayou overran its banks. Supporters and volunteers who had been helping us with SpringSpirit were now in dire straits. While insurance might replace possessions over time, it would not be immediate or quick. This time, the entire SpringSpirit community pulled together and got involved helping their neighbors whose homes were flooded.
SpringSpirit organized camps for younger children while school was out of session, and children organized lemonade stands so they could purchase needed supplies. They raised $10,000! Older children and adult volunteers helped clear flood-damaged debris and muck out homes. The community moms started cooking. (And, they can cook!) All in all, they organized and cooked huge spreads of food they delivered to their Memorial neighbors, many of whom were living in severely damaged homes as they were being repaired.
Whatever differences that separated the two communities before were overcome by the tremendous outpouring of extravagant hospitality, love, and hope. Those living in damaged homes knew that once a week they would have a home cooked meal they could feast on for several days. Deliveries of food went on for months. It was wonderful to see that the relationships SpringSpirit’s supporter base invested in were returning the favor.
SpringSpirit’s investment in Spring Branch and the community’s children shows us that the community is indeed rich in spirit, heart and potential. In the aftermath of the storm, God was laying the groundwork to show us how we are all one community, accountable to one another and a blessing in God's sight.
Editor’s note: Our TMF blog shares stories and essays inspired by our purpose: to help individuals, families, congregations and like-minded organizations achieve their God-inspired potential. TMF Grants Ministries first invested in SpringSpirit Baseball in 2016 to help it grow and tell its powerful impact story. In Fall 2017, SpringSpirit was awarded a TMF Harvey Relief Fund grant to support the organization's efforts to meet the needs of its families whose neighborhoods and homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.