Hurricane Harvey sparks Summit County efforts to assist Houstonians in need | SummitDaily.com

Hurricane Harvey sparks Summit County efforts to assist Houstonians in need

April Kemp, right, hands items to April Bennett, who was collecting them Tuesday in the Which Wich parking lot in Frisco to later distribute to flooding victims in Texas. Bennett, who was born in the city, said she plans to drive a trailer full of donations down to Houston today.

Summit County residents are feeling compelled to lend support as Hurricane Harvey hammers Houston and the surrounding area with historic rainfall.

In response to the widespread devastation, a local woman spent Tuesday in two Frisco parking lots collecting money and goods while others supported her effort by dropping items off.

"This is an unfortunate event but an amazing opportunity to watch people to come together," said April Bennett, who spearheaded the impromptu donation drive. "It's really sad and beautiful at the same time."

She was born in Houston, and she now lives in Summit County with her husband and their children, where the couple met about 10 years ago. Sad is what's happened to Houston, she said, but beautiful is seeing so many people who've stepped up to help out.

On Tuesday, Bennett, who is able to work from home as a counselor, parked her family's white covered trailer outside the Which Wich sandwich shop in Frisco with her children in tow.

While the youngsters made signs to promote the drive, Bennett was there to collect baby formula, diapers, bottled water, nonperishable food, over-the-counter medicines and numerous other items that Houstonians might need. Bennett said she plans to leave Frisco this morning with the trailer chock-full.

"My family, a lot of them have been evacuated or are stranded up high," Bennett said of her reasons for wanting to help. "The thing that got me is my cousin texted me and said she didn't have formula for her baby and can't get it."

Aiding Bennett in her effort to top off the trailer were two of her friends, Tammie Santacruce and Tina Arndt, who both live in Summit and also have ties to the Lone Star State.

Bennett set up outside Which Wich a little before 9 a.m., and she remained there throughout the lunchtime hours with plans to hit Walmart's parking lot in the afternoon and early evening.

"I just had this idea yesterday," she said. "I thought, 'I should do something. We own a trailer, and I guess I can take stuff down,' so here we are."

In addition to the goods, Bennett was also accepting monetary donations, which she will funnel to the Houston relief effort through Ten Peaks Church in Silverthorne.

In looking for a place to collect donations, Bennett also picked up allies with the owners of the sandwich shop, who not only let Bennett have free reign of their parking lot but also decided to donate one-fifth of Tuesday's restaurant sales to the relief effort. The money from Which Wich will also go through the church.

Other businesses made their presence known too, and while Bennett was outside the sandwich shop, a worker from Lowe's in Silverthorne stopped by with six cases of bottled water, about as many as his small passenger car could carry.

The worker's name is Brandon Conway, and as he unloaded the car, he told Bennett a manager at the store said there was plenty more where that came from if Bennett had room and wanted to come pick it up. Happy to take Conway up on the offer, Bennett thanked him and promised to swing by later.

After a couple hours outside Which Wich, Bennett's trailer was about a third of the way full. She was blown away by the early response, and depending on what happened at Walmart, she joked she might need to round up another trailer before heading out on the 17-hour drive.

"I'm thinking we might fill up and have to use the pickup truck, maybe a Penske," Bennett said. "We'll see."

It's unclear exactly how many people in Summit County have a connection to Houston, but with such a large number of second-home owners and seasonal residents hailing from Texas, it's safe to assume the ties are strong.

One man who's been driving a bus for Vail Resorts over the last year after being laid off from the oil fields outside Houston is now planning a return trip.

"It's devastation," said Ian McKenna, 29, who lived in the Houston area when Hurricane Ike hit the city in September 2008.

He flew out when he interviewed for a job in Houston a couple weeks ago, and now plans to return to the city he considers home once the water recedes and the rescue effort becomes a cleanup mission, regardless if he gets the job.

McKenna said he knows dozens of his friends have already lost their homes in the flooding, and those living in Dickinson, Texas, which sits about 30 miles southeast of Houston.

McKenna's Facebook page is littered with videos and images of the flooding, and he remembers his roof caving in under the weight of Ike's torrential downpours and high winds a decade ago.

Looking at the images coming out of Houston this week, McKenna said it's frustrating knowing what his friends are going through and being unable to help them.

"It's hard to deal with it," he said, adding that he's already registered as a volunteer with the Red Cross and looks forward to helping with the cleanup. "I feel very useless. It's hard to figure out where I need to go and what I need to do."

Another local with ties to Texas is Christy Rost, a home-entertaining guru, occasional contributor to this newspaper and author of multiple cookbooks, who also once lived in Houston and spends much of the year at a second home in Breckenridge.

Rost and her husband have since sold their place in Houston and bought property in Dallas. Still, she has family there and there's no shortage of concern for the people who are riding out the storm.

Reached over the phone, Rost's brother-in-law and younger sister, Craig and Nancy Anderson, said they have managed to stay dry so far.

Many areas around them have flooded and they've been largely trapped in their home since Harvey hit, Craig said over the phone Tuesday. Also, a number of family members have sought refuge with the Andersons, and so far, he said, they've been lucky.

"The fact that all these different people have been volunteering … has really been pretty cool," Craig Anderson added, as he referenced people coming in from Louisiana, southern Texas — which also got hit by the storm — and beyond.

"The areas around us are flooded pretty badly," he said, "but what's been really neat is everybody is just pulling together to fix it."

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Five ways to help

Texas Monthly magazine has complied a list of organizations that people can reach out to to help the flood victims in Texas. The list is broken down into specific areas, and these are only some of the many organizations that are on it. For the complete list, go to “>texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/ways-can-help-people-hurricane-harvey/ .

Houston Food Bank

832-369-9390

houstonfoodbank.org

The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio

210-731-8118

texasdiaperbank.org

Austin Pets Alive! in Austin Texas

512-961-6519

austinpetsalive.org/

Houston Coalition for the Homeless

713-739-7514

homelesshouston.org/

Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi

361-694-5000

driscollchildrens.org/

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