The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey is fast-approaching, and Houston airports are looking back while moving forward. Hurricane Harvey landed in Southeast Texas and wreaked unprecedented havoc on the area Aug. 25-29, 2017. The devastating effects of the super storm can still be felt – recovery is ongoing as lives were lost, homes and businesses were destroyed, and many thousands of individuals and families were displaced.
But in addition to the death, destruction, and disaster the hurricane yielded, another word emerged from the chaos and rubble. That word was “hope.” Hope, as a community and a country galvanized in dealing with the tremendous loss that resulted from the tropical cyclone. Moving forward, Houston Airports played a significant role in being a vehicle of hope.
That hope was typified through the fund-raising work of Houston Airport Interfaith Chapels as recounted by Walt Gray, President of the Chapels’ Board of Directors and Director of Parking for Houston Airports. In looking back at the outreach to help the hurting, Gray said “The Chapels raised money through our website and notices placed in the airport chapels, in addition to national airport organizations.”
“The Chapels made donations to 197 badged airport employees totaling $117,750,” Gray said. “These funds helped persons with loss of property.”
Gray applauded the efforts of Houston Airports’ employees, who again stepped up and displayed their generosity toward those among them who had suffered loss. He was extremely appreciative toward the American Association of Airport Executives and the Airport Council International - North America, entities that collectively contributed nearly $88,000 to the collection efforts.
Walt also expressed his gratitude to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport which sent $8,000-plus in gift cards.
“The recipients were so grateful,” Gray said. “The Chapel received a number of letters expressing their thanks.”
Alice Schultz serves as Secretary-Treasurer for the Chapels and worked with the Chapel Board in securing donations and dispensing the monies to the many recipients who stood in need. “There was much surprise, humility, and many tears when the Harvey victims received their checks,” Schultz said. “I received many hugs, and we would cry together. The recipients were very grateful.”
In looking back, Houston Airports recently took part in a packed event at the Lone Star Flight Museum that commemorated the hurricane’s anniversary. Arturo Machucha, General Manager at Ellington Airport, said that Ellington participated in the 2018 Harvey Heroes Banquet, a community event on July 19 mainly organized by the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce. Around 400 people attended, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and many federal, state, county and city officials.
“The surrounding community and first responders were recognized for their contributions during and after Harvey Hurricane,” Machuca said.
Gray summed it up by saying that the Chapels’ fundraising efforts remind us all that Interfaith Chapels are far more than just places to worship or meditate, while recognizing the intrinsic value of those services. The nonprofit organization holds events throughout the year to raise money for emergency aid and student scholarships for employees or their family members. “The Chapels’ were pleased to be a conduit of hope for so many hurting people in the aftermath of the storm,” Gray said.
Looking back while moving forward, Houston Airports continues to make a real difference in the lives of people and families!