Towson area volunteers help with Harvey relief efforts

When Megan Pilachowski first heard of the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, the 39-year-old Knollwood resident decided to help.

Distraught over the idea that hundreds of animals might have been displaced, along with the people Harvey has affected, Pilachowski, a professional dog trainer, decided that she would do her part to help animals.

“I obviously don’t want to lose sight of the destruction that the humans are facing,” Pilachowski said. “But the animals are facing just as much and they don’t have any place to go.”

This week, Pilachowski began a drive to collect supplies for domestic pets from her neighbors and others to be transported to an animal rescue organization in Texas later this month. The first load of supplies will head south with Baltimore-based Animal Allies Rescue Foundation on Sept. 7.

Pilachowski is one of many Towson residents who are seeking to lend assistance to the victims of Harvey, which tore through southeastern Texas over the weekend.

Harvey came ashore last Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and hovered over the region for days, causing record flooding. The confirmed death toll from the storm stood at 31 on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The more than 50 inches of rain that flooded Houston left much of the city underwater with levels rising in some neighborhoods days after the storm’s passing.

As residents flee floodwaters, some unofficial shelters have turned away those who attempt to enter with pets, leaving people to choose between taking care of their animals or their own needs, Pilachowski said.

Anyone with pet supplies— towels, blankets, food, treats, leashes and litter — is asked to contact Pilachowski at k9dness@gmail.com to arrange a drop-off.

Feeling ‘human again’

West Towson resident Andrea Tenne is organizing donations of shoes and socks in Towson through Sept. 8 to deliver to the Fleet Feet Sports franchise in Annapolis, which, along with company’s Pikesville store, is collecting gently used shoes and new socks to be delivered to a Houston franchise at a later date. The stores sells athletic shoes.

The effort is being coordinated with stores nationwide, according to Annapolis store marketing director Jessica Yetter. All collected items will be delivered to Houston when possible and distributed to area charities, Yetter said.

Tenne, whose house flooded by Hurricane Irene in 2011, while she was living in New Jersey, said she decided to organize collections in Towson because she remembers driving to her sister’s house in Rodgers Forge soaking wet following the storm.

“That was the worst feeling in the world,” Tenne said. “My feet ended up getting infected. The best feeling in the world was putting on clean and dry socks. It makes you feel human again.”

To ensure the shoes stay together, Fleet Feet Sports is asking donors to tie pairs together and write the sizes on the heel of the shoe. Donors are also asked to designate whether they are for women, men or youth.

Towson area residents can call 843-822-4716 or email attenne@attenne.net to schedule a local drop-off.

“You don’t have to spend a lot and can help people,” Tenne said. “Little things can go a long way. Hopefully we get a lot of donations.”

Towson University’s Athletics Department is sending boxes of shirts and other clothing items to Houston, according to spokesman Ray Feldmann.

The university’s Student Government Association is also working with the Black Student Union and Phi Beta Sigma fraternity to donate to the victims of Hurricane Harvey by hosting bake sales in the University Union building. One sale is set for Sept. 20 with others expected, Feldmann said.

There will also be a box in the University Union by Phi Beta Sigma for clothes to be donated.

Some Towson area residents began participating in relief efforts directly following the disaster.

Last Friday, Rich Scanlan, of Towson, deployed to Texas with the Red Cross of the Greater Chesapeake Region. Now in Austin, Scanlan, a Red Cross volunteer, is running a Red Cross evacuation center in the city, working 14 to 15-hour days with other Red Cross volunteers.

“This is probably one of the worst things — including Katrina — I’ve seen,” Scanlan said Thursday by phone from Austin. “A lot of these people were brought in on a bus with the clothes on their back and nothing else.”

Five Baltimore County Fire Department personnel and one Health and Human Services employee also have gone to Texas to help with relief efforts, according to Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

Fire Lt. Byron Welker, a rescue specialist, and Fire Apparatus Driver Operator Steve Yealdhall, a hazmat specialist, are in Katy, Texas, just west of Houston.

They are assigned to boat operations as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Pennsylvania Task Force No. 1, a team of specially trained first responders based in Philadelphia. Welker and Yealdhall are regularly assigned to the department’s Texas Fire Station, in Cockeysville.

EMS Lt. Kevin Palmer and EMS Lt. Rick Blubaugh deployed over the weekend with the Maryland-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team to help provide medical care to victims of Hurricane Harvey, according to a department news release. DMAT provides medical care during disasters that overwhelm health care infrastructure.

Fire Capt. John Amrhein and Terry Sapp, Coordinator of Public Health Emergency Preparedness for the Department of Health and Human Services, and an EMT, left Tuesday to join DMAT. They are awaiting missions in the region.

"Our hearts are with everyone affected by this unimaginable disaster," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a statement. "We are so grateful to be able to contribute to the recovery effort."

Pastor Nancy Kraft of Ascension Lutheran Church in Towson said youth members of the church who were already headed to Houston next summer for service projects will now respond to hurricane recovery efforts. Though it’s still early, relief efforts are expected to be ongoing.

“They went to New Orleans twice after Katrina and transformed the city,” Kraft said. “We expect the same to happen in Houston.”

In the meantime, the church is encouraging its members to donate to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Lutheran Disaster Response Hurricane Harvey Relief fund, which will be used entirely for this disaster until the response is complete, according to the church’s website.

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