BEAUMONT—Buckner International continues to assess the short- and long-term impact on the families it serves in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey after the storm pounded Houston and Southeast Texas, areas where Buckner has significant work.
During a two-day tour Sept. 3-4 to the affected areas, Buckner President Albert Reyes visited staff and residents at two Buckner senior living communities, as well as children, families and staff from Buckner Children and Family Services in Beaumont who relocated to Camp Buckner north of Austin.
“It was both heartbreaking and yet inspiring to visit with our Buckner family,” Reyes said. “Several of our staff have suffered complete personal loss and devastation, and yet they are still caring for the children and senior residents. I’ve never been prouder of Buckner.”
Buckner also has “been blessed by the support and outpouring of generosity from donors and friends who have risen to the occasion and continue donating desperately needed items and financial support,” Reyes said.
Volunteers step up to help at Aldine
At the Buckner Family Hope Center at Aldine in the northern part of Houston, Buckner staff and volunteers served nearly 1,700 people representing 385 families affected by the storm, said Adam McKinney, Buckner gift officer for Houston, who is coordinating relief efforts for the ministry.
About 100 volunteers showed up to help sort and distribute the items, including a team from Houston-based Noble Energy, McKinney said. Noble also is sending about 100 more volunteers to repair damage sustained at the Family Hope Center.
In addition to the outpouring of local support, Buckner received three trucks loaded with supplies from The Church of Eleven22 from Jacksonville, Fla. The trucks arrived at the Family Hope Center in Houston around 2 a.m. Sept. 4 after driving 15 hours straight with 15 church members.
Church members slept on the floor of the Buckner building and then went to work early Monday morning preparing the items for distribution, McKinney said. The group was back on the road as quickly as possible to return to Florida, where members said they were preparing for Hurricane Irma to hit.
“This is an incredible example of what it means for the church to be the presence of Christ,” McKinney said. “For a church to show this level of compassion and care from that distance is a testimony to all of us and an incredible blessing to our families.”
Employees at Calder Woods sustain losses
During a visit to Calder Woods, the Buckner senior living community in Beaumont, Reyes helped staff affected by the storm prepare donated clothes and hygiene products. The items arrived at Calder Woods from the Buckner Family Hope Center at Aldine in Houston.
As of Sept. 4, Beaumont still lacked running water. But Ben Mazzara, executive director of Calder Woods, said seven employees lost everything in the flooding. Clothes and other donations are going to those staff members and others, he noted.
“This is just an incredible demonstration of Buckner’s spirit,” Mazzara said. “We have staff who lost everything, and yet they’re here today, caring for residents and their fellow employees.”
Mazzara, who owns a home in Galveston, worked nine straight days and said he was uncertain whether his home on the island survived Harvey. But help arrived Sept. 5 when Buckner officials sent staff from Buckner Westminster Place in Longview and Buckner Villas in Austin to relieve Mazzara and his team at Calder Woods.
“This is what it means to be part of an organization that is Christ-like and mission-driven,” said Chelsea Musick, assistant director of nursing at Calder Woods. Musick’s family lost their home. Floodwaters reached the roof line. She is living in a local hotel with her husband and children.
During the height of the storm, officials made the decision to shelter-in-place at Calder Woods, fearing moving the 57 residents in nursing, assisted living and memory care would be “too traumatic and devastating for them,” Reyes said. In addition, there are 101 residents in Calder Woods’ independent living apartments.
Residents at Calder Woods are “doing incredibly well,” Mazzara said. “Our decision to stay here was the right decision. We’re safe, and we are fortunate to have plenty of water.”
Calder Woods’ food supplier managed to bring in regular shipments and medicine for residents was delivered from Houston by helicopter, Mazzara said.
Neither Calder Woods nor the Buckner Children’s Village in Beaumont sustained any flood damage, Buckner officials reported.
Families relocated to Camp Buckner
However, because of the shortage of running water, Buckner relocated 63 people from its children and family services division to Camp Buckner in Central Texas. Those included foster families, Buckner Assessment Center children and staff.
The move was made “out of concern for their safety and comfort,” Reyes said. Reyes visited the group Sept. 3 and presented a devotion to them during a worship time.
At Parkway Place, the Buckner senior living community in Houston, staff reported they weathered the storm with no problems. In a meeting with residents at the community, Reyes expressed appreciation for the staff, including many who worked more than five days straight, sleeping at Parkway Place during the storm to ensure the safety of the residents.
Derone Martin, food service director, said he slept at Parkway Place several nights along with others on his team.
“We had to make sure our residents were safe and had regular meals,” he said.
As of Tuesday morning, Sept. 5, more than $30,000 had been donated online to support Buckner children and families affected by Harvey. Officials report more than $16,000 in items donated to the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid in Dallas, in addition to shipments that went directly to affected areas in Houston and Beaumont.
South Main Baptist Church in Houston donated more than 10,000 pairs of new shoes collected for the Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls to storm victims in Houston.
Churches near Camp Buckner provided items to the Buckner evacuees there.