During Hurricane Harvey, the Ali family lost almost everything after their Fort Bend County home was flooded by a foot of storm water. The downstairs portion, including the kitchen and two bedrooms, were destroyed and the family found themselves living in hotels and with friends for months. After they moved back, the kitchen remained a total loss and the family used a back yard grill as a makeshift kitchen.
“We have had our ups and downs but this experience has given me a new appreciation for the strength of my parents and everything they have overcome,” daughter Naureen Ali said, who is grown and now lives on her own. Ali has two sisters who still live at home with her parents and an older brother currently serving overseas in the Navy.
Volunteers from ISGH River Oaks Islamic Center, where the Ali family are members, came to help with cleanup efforts the day after the storm, which happened to fall on the day before Eid Al Adha, a special Islamic holiday also called the “Festival of Sacrifice”. Now one year later, family members were celebrated having their home back.
“We are so grateful for everything these groups have done to restore our family home,” Naureen Ali said.
A star-studded group of celebrities from partner organizations who worked together to completely rebuild the house and replace all the furniture gathered to welcome the Ali family to their newly-rebuilt home Tuesday, August 12.
“We all deal with some sort of destruction in life, some sort of devastation in life, but it’s how we respond to it that really matters and we’ve seen that here in such a big way,” Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony which also featured appearances by Susan Dell, Houston home-builder David Weekley and Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale.
The rebuild-project was funded by a $350,000 grant from the Rebuild Texas Fund, created jointly by the OneStar Foundation, a state-wide non-profit that has focused on supporting communities affected by Hurricane Harvey and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.
The Ali Family home is located in the same southwest Houston neighborhood where Michael Dell grew up, wife Susan Dell told reporters.
“When Harvey hit, his childhood neighborhood, just like this one, was underwater. We knew we had to do something,” she said.
Within a few days, the couple created the Rebuild Texas Fund, Dell said.
“It has been absolutely incredible and inspiring to see the strength of the families and the communities and to see how tens of thousands of volunteers have rallied to help,” she said.
Houston home-builder David Weekley also joined as a partner in the project alongside HomeAid Houston, a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with builders from the Greater Houston Builders Association to provide materials and contractors to help rebuild homes damaged by the hurricane.
“The great thing about the recovery effort in Houston is many of the organizations involved are very collaborative,” said Chris Yuko, director of BuildAid, a Houston-based non-profit that also worked as a partner on the project. BuildAid was founded after the storm and funded via a $5.5M grant from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation and established by Houston’s Mayor Turner and Harris County Judge Emmett.
The groups have partnered on three other home-rebuild projects and during the process, Yuko said they discovered moving families back into homes without furniture was problematic.
“It’s nice to bring a homeowner into their home, but they can’t actually return home until they have a place to put their head at night and a place to sit down and share a meal,” Yuko said.
In search of solutions, Yuko said he reached out to Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and invited him to join the project. McIngvale was soon on board.
“Through Hurricane Harvey, we truly found unity in community and that will continue as we continue the rebuilding efforts, so we’re proud to donate some furniture here today,” McIngvale said.
Yuko said volunteers from Ecclesia, a downtown-area church he and his family attend, arranged to bring a food truck to cater the event and help welcome the Ali family back to their home.
“The faith-based community, the public sector and private business, they have all come together as partners on the project,” Yuko said.
James Boone Jr., director of construction efforts for BuildAid, also attended the event to help welcome the Ali family back to their new home.
“It is great to be able to give back and see a family that was truly devastated and displaced and be able to help out and get them back home and actually make things better than they were before,” Boone said. “I came to the event to tell them welcome home and God bless you. They say God is everywhere and so God is actually using us as a vessel to get his work done. I truly believe that.”