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Katy moves forward after Harvey

August 29, 2018

The rebuilding of Katy-area homes damaged by Harvey continues as does the ministering to reach the emotional needs of those who not only lost possessions but also a sense of security and stability.

An estimated 1,400 Katy-area homes remain to be rehabilitated one-year after Harvey, according to Tom Pretti Jr, CEO of Katy Responds, a recently organized nonprofit. Pretti as local mission coordinator for Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church, coordinated post-Harvey cleanup. His counterpart at The Fellowship, Joel Davidson, now is COO of Katy Responds. Thirteen churches form a base for Katy Responds as well as other nonprofits and businesses, according to Pretti. Katy Responds will serve as a bridge between resources available such as grants to rebuild homes and volunteers to lend hand for those who need help to make their house a home again.

This is a means to bring the community to wholeness, said Pretti. Michael Farr, director local missions at Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church, spoke of a transitional phase for his church as it continues helping the families in current projects and shifts resources to Katy Responds to help other families in the future. Visit www.katyresponds.org for information.

The goal is to rehabilitate 100 homes within 24 months, said Pretti, with work under way at three homes thanks to assistance from the Rotary Club of Katy.

“Our motto is service above self,” said Chris Garcia, president of the Rotary Club of Katy. “When there is a need we want to be there. I grew up in the community. For people like myself, it’s not just a place to live and do business. This is our home. It’s important to give back where can we financially and with manpower. We understand if everyone is back on their feet, it’s a stronger community. If we can be part of the process, we want to be there.”

That sentiment is shared by Pretti and Farr as they talk about a community effort to reach out to survivors.

Up to 5 inches of water flooded Garcia’s 31-year-old house after Harvey, and rehab work continues. “It’s really touch-ups and clean-up type of things. It’s disappointing. But it is what it is. We’re further along than many other people. We’re blessed with where we are.”

Stormy weather that brings heavy rain can cause anxious moments for some survivors of Hurricane Harvey, though, according to Katy Recovers organizers who want to break that streak of fear.

“In heavy rain instances, myself, wife and kids get butterflies and wonder what’s going to happen,” said Garcia describing a feeling sometime experienced when it’s more dreary than normal. “It’s in the back of our minds and our kids will ask, too. I hate for them to have to worry about that,” added Garcia, who said his kids are 10, 9 and 4 in age.

The number of people with stressed relationships seeking help is evident at Grace Fellowship UMC. Farr said the DivorceCare class met Aug. 20 and had 150 participants. That compares to 50 to 70 people in earlier sessions. Couples who, perhaps, had stressed relationships before Harvey, are finding themselves facing additional pressures now, said Farr.

“It’s quite a jump,” he added.

Both Pretti and Garcia talk of Harvey strengthening relationships.

Pretti said he’s experienced stronger relationships post-Harvey. “I have more people I can turn to then before. I really do want that for those impacted.”

Post-Harvey, the Rotary Club of Katy has grown in strength and camaraderie, said Garcia, who had members help him with his home after Harvey. “The Rotary Club of Katy has 75 plus members from many different backgrounds. Those are my family. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. If someone can tap into organization like that to get that feeling of family — it’s amazing what a good organization can do for one.”

Emotionally lots of organizations, churches or nonprofit — even the schools — could provide counseling or conversation to talk with someone, said Garcia. “A big part of it is being human with people and being kind and listening. Sit down and talk with someone. It’s amazing what a conversation can do to someone who just needs to be heard.”

The team approach used to rebuild homes will be applied by Katy Responds to the spiritual and emotional care and recovery of Katy-area residents through prayer, mentors and support groups to help people move forward.

“Plaques will be given to all our Grace Fellowship flood families and those families we’ve touched in the community,” said Farr.

The 90 plaques, which feature Philippians 4:6 — “Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” — are the Eagle Scout project of Boy Scout Joseph Kohlmaier. He and his fellow Scouts of Boy Scout Troop 608 “cut, routered, sanded and painted” the plaques, said Farr. “A ladies group from Grace Fellowship designed and finished the plaques.”

The Rotary Club of Katy will use proceeds from its 26th annual Triathlon on Sept. 23 at Cane Island to fund college scholarships for Katy-area students.

“We’re able to target seniors affected by Harvey. When reading applications, it is still a very real thing and will be for a few years,” Garcia said.

In addition to helping Katy Recovers, the club wants to try to relieve some of the burden on students in the Katy Independent School District as much as it can, Garcia said.

In looking back at the one-year anniversary of Harvey, Garcia said he’s interested in people’s reactions to the media’s images and video of the hurricane and its aftermath. “My hope is that people see the good in how people came together and that continues to spark that in everyone’s heart and mind,” Garcia said. “Reach out to neighbors here if they still need us.”

That’s what organizers of Katy Responds hope, too.

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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