One Parish’s Flood Relief Story  

     What follows is the account given by Stephen Lenahan, Communications Director for the Catholic Parish of St. Anthony of Padua in The Woodlands, Texas.  ”When Harvey hit, many never pictured how bad it was going to be. Houston has flooded be-fore but never on this scale. As the rains fell, a few staff members were able to get out of their neighborhoods to meet at the parish Center. Viewing the damage, we knew that our campus was going to be fine other than a few leaks. Our pastor, Fr. Tom Rafferty, implemented a daily leadership team meeting starting that Monday, August 21st. Those who could not make it to the parish joined us by phone. We took action immediately by collecting supplies from our food pantry and handing them out.


Setting Up A Distribution Center

     “The next day, people started to venture out of their areas to look for ways to help others. One of our neighboring parishes, St. Ignatius of Loyola in Spring, TX, was completely flooded, while two others, Sts. Simon & Jude in The Woodlands and Sacred Heart in Conroe were operating as shelters.  We decided to focus our efforts on becoming a Distribution Center for the Southside of Montgomery County.

      “While search and rescue efforts were still in full force around the city, many people without boats wanted to help.  They began donating supplies for those that had nothing. Within six hours of opening our Center, we filled 20,000 square feet of space with donations.  They filled our cafeteria, gym, adult faith formation area and outreach building.  The first thing people donated was clothing, but flood victims had no house to hang them in. We organized 85 pickup trucks to take the clothes we had to a warehouse for sorting and storage until people were ready for them. 


Shifting the Focus

     “By Wednesday, we stopped accepting clothing and began concentrating on cleaning supplies, bottled water and food. Then we made a priority list of what were the more pressing needs.  These included:

  1.      Setting up a SignUp Genius, a free online software tool for volunteer management.  
  2.      Creating a Google Form to coordinate people willing to drive and distribute donations.
  3.      Arranging an Amazon Wedding Registry for people to donate specific needed items.
  4.      Asking for Gift Cards from stores so flood victims could have the dignity of choice as they started to rebuild.  This also helped to re-boot the local economy.
  5.      Making connections with organizations and ministries all over Houston in order to distribute the abundance of donations we received.
  6.      Encouraged parishioners to form their own work teams to assist in cleaning up homes and neighborhoods instead of depending on an official request from the parish.
  7.      Publicized all of our updates each day on our parish website, on Facebook and Flocknote, an email and text messaging tool for parish based organizations. These daily updates kept everyone in touch with immediate needs.

     “Once we implemented all of these plans, it became a well-oiled machine by the second week. At the end of the second week we decided to stop collecting material donations except for continuing our Food Pantry as normal.  We concentrated instead on providing financial relief. We are now mapping out our plan for distributing the financial relief to those without a home or any resources for rebuilding.”