The Harder family lives in Beaumont, Texas. When they evacuated their home as Hurricane Harvey approached in late August, they knew their house would be damaged, but they didn’t expect to lose virtually every possession except for the clothes and food they packed into their two cars before driving off to see a friend.
“We just assumed that if we did get some water, we would maybe get two feet or so, so we put everything up high on the beds,” Jessica Harder said.
By Aug. 30, however, flash flooding had ripped through Beaumont, and a neighbor who had entered the Harders’ neighborhood on jetski sent them pictures of their house. The worst had happened.
“[Water] was covering the garage door completely,” Jessica said. “I could see the top of my house.”
When the family was able to return, there was little to salvage – a few items that had been placed on the highest of high shelves, perhaps, but most of their possessions ruined, to say nothing of the structural damage to their home. As much of a shock as the hurricane’s devastation was, however, the Harders were due for a much more welcome surprise: Help to rebuild coming from Forest Lake.
Joe DelVillar is a manager at Culver’s in Forest Lake. Earlier this year, he visited the suburbs of Houston to help his daughter, Bobbi Jo, move. Jessica, who knows Bobbi Jo through a workout group, was also on hand to help, and she and Joe met while working together.
“I guess I made a good impression,” Harder said.
Bobbi Jo also evacuated her home during the hurricane, and as she and Jessica kept in contact, she learned about the devastation to the Harder homestead. When Joe found out, he wanted to find a way to help, so he asked Culver’s owners Scott and Kathy Willis if the business could hold an “Adopt-A-Family” event of sorts to benefit the family.
“Scott said, ‘Yeah, let’s go ahead and do it,’” DelVillar recalled.
On Sept. 18, 10 percent of all proceeds from sales at Culver’s will go toward helping the Harders rebuild their lives. A station for direct donations to the family will also be set up at the business.
When Jessica and her husband Eric heard the news, they were floored by the offer’s generosity.
“We kind of tried to hold back the tears,” said Jessica, who with Eric has four kids from ages 2 to 18. “We’re just this little family in Beaumont that he wants to help, and we’re grateful for it.”
The family is still salvaging what they can from the home and preparing the frame for a rebuild. There are lots of needs to consider, like a long-term residence to stay in while they reconstruct their residence, but knowing that kind strangers up north have decided to reach out has helped the Harders cope.
“It’s helping us rebuild,” Jessica said of the benefit. “Otherwise, we don’t know where we would start.”
Culver’s is located at 1007 W. Broadway Ave. in Forest Lake.
Northwoods Humane Society
Humans aren’t the only ones left in the lurch by the damage of Harvey. Many animals have been displaced in the storm’s wake, and the Northwoods Humane Society is doing its best to help some of those animals find homes while supporting Texas humane societies that are working hard to accommodate increased populations.
Even in drier times, Texas often has a surplus of animals in humane societies, and Northwoods has long had a relationship with a network that ships overbooked animals that otherwise would be due for euthanasia to less crowded humane societies in other states. Last week, Northwoods accepted its first delivery of six dogs being moved out of Texas to make way for newly lost Harvey animals, though Executive Director Renee Rude was quick to mention that when people decide to adopt the dogs, they won’t be separating a pet from its flood-displaced owner.
“What we’re all taking is animals that were displaced before the hurricane took place, and now they need the space for all the [newly] displaced animals,” she explained.
All of the dogs will be ready to be adopted soon, and more are coming – so many more, in fact, that the society is looking for dog foster families to temporarily care for some of the animals to accommodate crowding issues that might otherwise develop.
“The amount of dogs that are going to [come] out of Texas is going to get bigger,” Rude said.
Meanwhile, each time the truck goes back down to Texas for more animals, Northwoods is sending with it crowd-sourced donations of food, water, cleaning supplies, toys and other humane society needs, so that Lone Star State animal shelters can get the support they’re currently lacking. Local pet lovers can drop off supplies to be sent to Texas in a donation bin at Northwoods (7153 Lake Blvd.).