Ty Stark and Britta Albright both live in Aberdeen, but Texas is where they call home.
Stark has moved frequently, but lived in the Houston area through high school. He still has family there, and “lots and lots of friends,” he said.
Albright lived in the Houston area for about 10 years. She’s in Aberdeen taking care of her grandmother, but says one day she’ll venture back to where her family still lives.
Watching the devastation from Hurricane Harvey was difficult for both of them.
“It was a heart-wrenching experience for me,” Stark said. “I was here and watched as it rained. I watched Facebook, talked to friends and it was an emotional event. It was draining.”
Albright had just been home the week before, to introduce her 1-year-old daughter, Emillia, to her family.
“I don’t have the words for the feeling inside watching, and knowing there’s nothing you can do to help them,” Albright said.
Both of them wanted to help their hometowns.
“I knew I was going to have to go to Texas. I continued to see pictures on Facebook and other forums, and I decided I was going and if I was going, I might as well take donations the community would be willing to give,” Stark said. “One family post that really clicked the switch for me simply said ‘We need help.’”
Albright thought about collecting supplies, but wondered how she would get everything to Texas if she did.
“Seeing everything, I felt so lost. I though, What can I do?” she said. “I was looking for a way, some way, because so many people were volunteering,
Through word of mouth in the community, Albright and Stark found each other. Neither wanted to collect money to give to the American Red Cross or similar organization, they wanted to collect things they know people need, suggestions directly from their family and friends who are there dealing with the devastation.
Albright and Stark and two other companies – Bill Bateman’s and Safe Harbor Travels – collected donations for several weeks.
Albright works for Applebee’s and set up collection boxes at restaurants in Aberdeen, Bel Air and White Marsh and in Lionville, Pa.
Stark did the same at T&S Autobody in Aberdeen, as did Safe Harbor and Bill Bateman’s Bistro.
When put together, the supplies filled a 5-by-8-foot U-Haul trailer. He had more items, like mops and brooms, packed in the backseat.
“That’s an entire living room full of stuff, so I was pretty happy with that,” Stark said.
Among the supplies collected were packets of school supplies for students, certificates for free meals at Applebee’s, baby items like diapers and formula and cleaning supplies.
“There was lots of bleach. The mold is setting in, and we had scrub brushes and items to do the things you have to do before you put the drywall back up and the flooring back in,” Stark said.
He assembled a drywall repair kit that is being passed among families whose homes need repairs.
Stark left for Texas with a full U-haul and truck on Oct. 20 and arrived the next day. He spent three days handing out supplies before beginning his journey home.
A friend who lives in Texas set up a warehouse to receive the donations once Stark got to Texas.
While Stark watching the storm hit Texas, the impact of seeing it in person was shocking.
“That’s not a very good work, because it’s not as impactful as it actually was. It was emotionally impactful,” he said. “The looks on some of the people’s faces were just priceless. It was fabulous to go in and give, whether at a home or a school, people are just so grateful. It was a very rewarding and humbling experience.”
Trash is becoming a problem in some areas, he said. Trash collectors – public or private – can’t keep up with removal.
“People are dumping half their house on the side of the street,” he said.
On one street, he could see 8-by-10-foot squares of dead grass that had been covered with refuse. Farther down, there were huge piles waiting to be collected and hauled away.
In other neighborhoods, he said, he could see dirt marks on the sides of house, 6 or 8 inches high, and think “they had a lot of water in their house.”
Though the people in Houston and surrounding areas are “tired and frustrated,” there’s one thing they were happy about: the Houston Astros.
In the midst of disaster, the baseball team was pulling people together.
“As silly as it sounds, people are happy about the World Series,” he said. “You walk into stores, other places, people talk about two things: the Houston Astros and disaster recovery. It’s a bonding thing.”
People in Texas are helping each other out.
“That’s the Texas life,” Albright said. “Watching everything happen, as soon as we started making this move, that feeling went away. You always want to do more, but just being able to do a little bit and help anybody is a good feeling.”