Tracing donations from Dallas that helped Houston after Hurricane Harvey

It is the non-profit that the City of Dallas directed everyone to give to last summer in the days after Hurricane Harvey.

GARLAND, Texas – About halfway down Easy Street in Garland is a complex distribution system that many in Houston have come to rely on.

“What we do is work with agencies that are down there. Our whole model is we help people help people,” said Michael Garrett, CEO of Trusted World, Inc.

It is the non-profit that the City of Dallas directed everyone to give to last summer in the days after Hurricane Harvey.

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For days, generous North Texans lined up to unload their cars with supplies, clothes and cash to help victims of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas Gulf Coast. “Now, they’re in rebuild mode, which is why we’re sending air conditioners down. We already sent down refrigerators and ranges and microwaves and bedroom sets,” Garrett said.

But a year after North Texans gave millions of items and opened their wallets to donate $380,000 in cash, what’s left of those monetary contributions is still being spent.

“We specifically held onto it because we didn’t want to be a flash in the pan. There’s a lot of organizations down there on the coast helping that day. We knew six months to eight months to a year later, they were going to need rebuilding supplies. We specifically held on to that to make sure we were there to help them,” he explained.

Six pallets of supplies, including 20 air conditioners, 4,000 shirts and shorts and 5,000 snacks, are the latest to get loaded into a box truck for a trip to Houston last week. It’s about $37,000 worth, Garrett added.

On the surface today, Houston is a city that appears to have rebounded, cleaned up, and gone back to work. But on the southern edge of the skyline, in an old church gym, you can see how great the need remains. “I know people judge ‘Oh, it’s eight months, they’re not recovered yet?’ No, because it takes time. This is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Catherine Flowers, executive director, Bread of Life, Inc.

Think of Trusted World like the supplier. It gets donations to non-profits like Bread of Life and Bread of Life delivers it to those in need. “We’re the conduit, the vehicle to get it to the folks, but we can’t get it to them if we don’t have partners that trust us. And so, it is a mutually beneficial relationship between us and Trusted World,” she explained.

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Catherine Flowers knows something about empathy. “Yeah, because I had a frame of reference that a lot of folks, don’t,” she continued.

Hurricane Katrina forced her to move to Houston almost 13 years ago. “I had ten feet of water and then the roof, we lost the roof. So, we lost everything. It makes me empathize with the people who are recovering today,” Catherine remembered as she became emotional.

Thousands of people gave cash last year to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Part of this story was meant to follow your money – to see what it bought and who it benefited.

And that’s what led us to Betty James on Houston’s Northside. She lost part of her back roof in the hurricane. “And I was thankful that none of the trees fell in on me. That’s what worried me more than anything,” she said.

Betty James, 61, drives a city bus for METRO in Houston. The storm destroyed her stove and damaged her refrigerator. She cooked on a hot plate and couldn’t keep her food cold for almost a year. “I always had to smell everything to make sure it was fresh,” Betty explained.

Donations from Dallas replaced her appliances and while we were there, Michael and Catherine brought her something else -- a new microwave to replace the used one someone gave her last year. “You know you just have to endure when you can’t do any better,” Betty told them. “Don’t ever think that what you’re doing is not worth it because it is a lot.”

It will take years for Houston to erase what Harvey did but a small non-profit from Dallas – fueled by the generosity of North Texans – has played a big part in helping the city resettle.