HOUSTON – Devastation on an unprecedented scale. That’s what Hurricane Harvey left in its wake when it slammed into Texas last month. Since then, AFSCME working and retiree members throughout the Lone Star State have been helping those in need.
In Houston, nearly 4 feet of water destroyed Mary Ann Adams’ first floor apartment. The retired state public health and training employee was lucky, however. She rode out the storm at a local hotel, but has had to sleep on the couch ever since she returned.
Adams, who is ill, has had to rely on family for food and other needs. But volunteers from AFSCME Texas Retiree Chapter 12 have been reaching out to fellow retirees like her for weeks, trying to locate and identify those in need.
In Adams’ case, help arrived quickly. They re-stocked her refrigerator, got her a new mattress and bed and turned what could’ve been a tragedy into hope.
“I am so blessed to have miracles happen,” Adams said. “AFSCME, my union, has no idea how grateful I am – but I never doubted they would be able to help.”
AFSCME Texas Retiree Chapter 12 Pres. Maura Powers says members and retiree members like Adams “have dedicated their lives to serving the state – in Ms. Adams’ case, for over 20 years. It becomes our duty to make sure we help her any way we can.”
'How Can You Not Come Out to Help?'
The same is true for HOPE AFSCME Local 123 in Houston. There, members and staff spread out across the city to help members with home repairs.
Matthew Jenkins, employed by the city’s Housing Department, was ready to get to work.
“How can you not come out to help?” he asked. “My family home – the home my parents were living in – was completely destroyed.”
While they had help to “muck out the home and remove sheet rock and drywall,” he said, others were not so lucky. That’s why Jenkins joined a team of HOPE volunteers and staff to help an AFSCME member – Paula Settles – rip out drywall and parts of her ceiling damaged by floodwater.
“I think it’s just as important to do what I can for Paula and any of the other HOPE members that might need our help,” he said.
Settles said, “This is what we do as HOPE members – we are often the first to offer help or support to those in need. I was able to help my neighbors when they needed help during the storm, and these wonderful people are willing to give up their time to help others.”
Looking After Your Family and Your Community
HOPE member Dwight Bradley, an employee of the Public Works and Engineering Department, was out working with the Houston Police Department on rescue missions while Harvey tore through the city. He helped rescue a co-worker and his family, but was not able to get them to a shelter because of the danger. Instead, he made them safe and comfortable at their worksite until they could be sent to a shelter the next morning.
“I saw firsthand the kind of devastation the storm wreaked on Houston,” Bradley said. “I was lucky my family and I did not have to deal with a lot of damage. That’s why coming here today, with my fiancée and two teenagers, was so important. I need my kids to understand. You can’t just take care of your family – you have to look at your whole community, especially when you were so lucky.”
HOPE member Yoshiko Hughes moved to Houston about a year ago. He said he had no family to rely on when the storm hit.
“It’s a godsend to have people help you in your time of need,” he noted. “Doing this all by myself would have been impossible so I am so grateful for the help” provided by Bradley and others.
Members of HOPE AFSCME Local 123, AFSCME Texas Retiree Chapter 12 and AFSCME members across the state have been working tirelessly reaching out to other members. They will continue to do so as long as the effort is needed.
“It’s going to be a long time before we have fully recovered, but I know that we will,” said Gary Simmons, executive director of HOPE AFSCME Local 123.
AFSCME members affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria need your help. Please contribute to our Fallen Heroes Fund today. We also have set up a page of recovery resources here.