hannasus: (Default)
Well it looks like my days of volunteering at Reliant Park may have come to an end: Katrina Evacuees in Houston Shelters to be Transferred in Preparation for Hurricane Rita.

I tried to go up there yesterday to volunteer, but they weren't letting anyone into any of the parking areas, possibly because of the First Lady's visit. I also tried to get in touch with a couple of people who were supposedly coordinating rides for evacuees looking for housing, but so far no luck. I'm considering signing up with Neighbors2Neighbors, but I hear they've got a waiting list for volunteers so I don't know if anything will come of that either.

In the meantime, I think I'm going to spend this week making sure that we're prepared for the potential arrival of Hurricane Rita. Houston doesn't have the river/lake levee situation that New Orleans does so things aren't nearly as dire here, but everyone's pretty paranoid after Katrina. I expect a run on batteries and masking tape to start any second now.

We're on the west side of town, outside of the evacuation zones, and our house is pretty decently elevated from the street, so I'm not panicking. But a good heavy rain will flood all the streets in our neighborhood and with the potential for power outages and wind damage it's best to be prepared.
hannasus: (Default)
My dad decided he'd rather have me do his errands today, so I was able to volunteer yesterday for [livejournal.com profile] snowdrifted. It was tres dull, however, and I have little of interest to report. They had been planning to have all the evacuees out of the Reliant Park shelters by Friday or Saturday, so they started to close down and pack up some of their operations there. The shoppers handed out their last clothes around noon and we spent the day boxing up and labeling everything in the warehouse for transport to other shelters around town. Whew, talk about hot, sweaty, dusty work. And I didn't even get to see the wedding.

Now, however, it looks like they've extended their weekend closing goal, which I'm kind of relieved about. It's great that the city and state are working so hard to find housing for people (with little to no help from FEMA or the federal government, who are still farting around trying to figure out what to do, thankyouverymuch), but I know some people are still waiting for their housing assignments to come in and I didn't want to think the city was going to be pressuring them to leave the shelter before they've got an acceptable place to go.

Today the volunteers are supposed to be consolidating everyone in the Astrodome and Reliant Center into the Astro Arena, and I have to admit I'm kinda glad I'm not gonna be able to go in for that. My legs are still protesting from all the bending over yesterday.

One nice thing I've noticed is that the mood at the shelter has changed a lot since last week. It used to be that the PA system was a constant litany of the names of the missing, as people desperately searched the various shelters in hopes of finding their loved ones. Every once in a while, there would be a joyous reunion in front of the message center and everyone would stop and cheer.

Early this week, though, the announcements had changed to things like, "Anyone interested in relocating to Nashville come to the message center," or "A representative from X is here with information about available jobs."

Yesterday the PA messages were all stuff like, "John Smith, your family is here to take you home," or "Paul Washington, you have a call from your sister in Dallas." It was nice to hear announcements about people reuniting with their friends and family and moving out of the shelters. Between that and all the packing up, it's taken on sort of an end-of-the-school-year feel.
hannasus: (Default)
It's a good thing I've got ya'll pushing me on this volunteer thing, otherwise I totally would have wussed out this week. But I knew you guys were counting on me so I made myself go back in, and I'm really happy I did.

Yesterday I volunteered for [livejournal.com profile] em_meredith and was sent to the big warehouse in the Reliant Center to sort and fold clothes. It was pretty dull work, but it needs to be done. The clothing is organized into giant rows by size, and it was our job to try and keep everything folded and sorted into the right location so it could be easily found by those who needed it. You would not believe some of the hideous things people donate. Some of it was filthy, some of it was too worn to be usable, and some of it was just plain ugly. And there were tons sweaters, which, you know, are really useful in our 95-degree heat. Anything gross or dirty we threw out, and then we packed up some of the uglier clothes to make space for a huge shipment of nice new clothes donated by the Texans.

Today I went back to volunteer for [livejournal.com profile] alanao and was promoted to "shopper." When people need clothes/shoes/toiletries/etc., they come to the clothing distribution station and give their list to one of the shoppers. Then we go back into the giant warehouse and sift through the rows of clothing to try and fill their request as best we can. It's a lot of pressure because you want to pick out something nice that the person will actually like (and that fits them), but you don't have time to spend an hour digging through the clothes for the cutest outfit ever, because there are people waiting in line for their turn.

The Red Cross Volunteer who trained us tried to emphasize how important it is to do the very best job we can, because we're trying to give people back a little bit of their dignity. He was so passionate about everything and the way he talked totally reminded me of Vincent D'Onofrio's character on L&O:CI. Also, it was his last day, so he got a little teary when he started talking about how this experience has changed his whole life. He was very sweet.

Anyway, I got assigned to work one of the stations for men, which was easier because men's fashion is so much more straightforward than women's. Almost any man will look decent in a polo shirt and pair of khakis. The one time I went in search of women's clothes it took me forever and I wasn't at all happy with what I finally came up with.

Sometimes we didn't have certain things that people wanted and I had to tell them to check back later. Tennis shoes, slippers and men's belts were in woefully short supply. Also boxer shorts. We had stacks of brand new tighty-whities, but none of the young guys wanted anything to do with them, and I can't say I blame them.

I like to think I did a fair job of matching the clothes to the taste of the client I was shopping for. Most of the time I was able to find at least one or two pretty cool things for everyone I helped. Today we had a bunch of brand new Fubu shorts and Dickies pants that the guys were clamoring for. And whenever I could turn up a pair of name-brand jeans for one of the younger men his face would light up so much it made you want to cry. I never in my life thought I'd be so happy to get my hands on Tommy Hilfiger jeans.

No volunteering for me tomorrow, but I'll try to go back on Thursday if they'll have me.
hannasus: (Default)
Ahhh, this is why they wouldn't let me into Reliant Park today. Those poor people. Hopefully they'll have some of this stuff better organized soon.
hannasus: (Default)
Well, today was supposed to be [livejournal.com profile] em_meredith's day in the Katrina Volunteer-a-Thon. I tried. I was all excited about it and headed straight over to Reliant Park after I dropped the munchkin off at school. Unfortunately, they weren't letting any volunteers in this morning for some reason. So I drove over to the George R. Brown Convention Center, but they're being helped out by Operation Compassion now (not to be confused with Operation Blessing, Pat Robertson's organization), and all the volunteer lots were full. I drove around a couple of times looking for somewhere to park, but the only parking available was in pay lots and of course I hadn't brought any cash with me this morning.

Ah well. Em (and the rest of you) will have to wait until next week, because tomorrow I'm taking my dad to run some errands and then I've got my hot date with [livejournal.com profile] austin360 this weekend. But never fear, I'll go back next week and try to work a few days for ya'll.
hannasus: (Default)
I know there are a lot of folks out there who don't have money to donate to relief efforts and live in areas that don't have any evacuees and wish there was something they could do to help. So I was thinking, I'm right here where there's plenty of need, so why don't I just do a volunteer shift in your place? This way, ya'll can feel like you're doing something because you're making sure that I keep going back to volunteer instead of wussing out and deciding that I'm too busy or too tired.

So here's what I'll do: for everyone who leaves a comment here expressing an interest, I'll do a four-hour volunteer shift in your place and I'll try to post at least a brief report about the work I did and the people I met during your shift.

This offer is open to anyone, not just the few folks on my flist, so feel free to let others who might be interested in taking me up on it know.

So, who wants me to go volunteer tomorrow?

P.S. For those living in the Houston area who are interested in helping out, the best site to get info on volunteering is http://www.volunteercenter.us/rsvp6.htm. It's updated several times daily with pertinent info and is a great resource, so please, if you know anyone in Houston, pass it on to them in case they'd like to get involved.

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