Our hearts are breaking over so many lives shattered by Hurricane Harvey. The storm left unimaginable damage behind and years of recovery ahead. And at our press time, the Caribbean and southeastern U.S. were experiencing another devastating storm, Irma. Still, the response to the Texas catastrophe has been deeply inspiring.
My spirits soared when I learned that AARP’s Texas staff and volunteers were safe, yet wasted no time in lending a helping hand to others. They went to emergency mega-shelters to sort clothing and food donations. They deployed to smaller, local shelters where resources were thinner. They brought food and necessities to assisted living residents. Tina Tran, manager of advocacy and outreach for AARP Texas, “kept the trains moving” at the Houston office before setting out to conduct house-to-house checks on elderly residents for BakerRipley, one of AARP’s community partners.
Neighbor helping neighbor is an American tradition, and this tragedy showed us once again what the best in us looks like. Within hours of the flooding in Houston, the quantity of food and clothing donations came close to outstripping demand, and some of the longest lines at shelters were people queued up to volunteer.
Another gratifying moment came when AARP and AARP Foundation announced a relief fund to support hurricane victims, especially those 50 and older, across Texas and Lou-is-iana. Their intention was to match, dollar for dollar, contributions up to $1 million. The mission was accomplished just 48 hours later, thanks to an incredible response from generous donors. With such kindness as inspiration, AARP Foundation increased the match level for the Hurricane Harvey relief fund to $1.5 million.
For almost 60 years, AARP has lived by our founder’s motto: to serve, not to be served. Helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey offered one more opportunity to demonstrate the wisdom of those words and the incredible power of service.
“I’ve never seen anything as bad as this,” said Juanita Jiménez-Soto, AARP Texas associate state director for communications, a witness to hurricanes Ike, Katrina and Rita. “But I’ve never seen anything like the spirit of togetherness I see
with this one. Everyone is helping everyone. That’s what we’re all about. As Texans. As Americans.
As humans. It will take time, but we’ll get through this.”
Eric J. Schneidewind, President of AARP and National Volunteer Spokesperson.