A team of Long Beach volunteers that refer to themselves as “Waves of Hope” made their way down to Texas last month to spread a message of resilience and hope to hurricane victims.
A dozen people flew to Rockport from Sept. 21 to 24 to directly distribute $43,000 worth of gift cards that were collected.
The group — which aids victims of natural disasters and aims to become a nonprofit organization in the future — arrived at a relief camp in Rockport where they spoke to local victims who are still reeling from the storm.
“There were 40 families living in this tent city,” said Long Beach resident and volunteer Tim Kramer, who also led a recent relief effort at St. Mary of the Isle prior to the trip to send five truckloads of donations to Hurricane Harvey victims. “There isn’t a home to go back to, so these people are all homeless now. It’s a real unfortunate situation. There’s just nothing there — they got to start over.”
Harvey made landfall in the Rockport area in late August, lashing homes and businesses with 130-mile per hour winds and dumping more than 39 inches of rain. The Gulf of Mexico storm surge ranged from six to 12 feet, and Harvey was labeled one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“It’s not like you have one or two families like this and the other families in town can help those two families — it’s the whole surrounding area, so everybody is helpless,” Kramer said.
JetBlue compensated 12 seats for each person on the team to fly down to Texas.
“Everybody on the team played an important role,” Kramer said. “Had they not [compensated] the tickets for us, there would’ve been maybe three or four of us going down, which would’ve made it a lot more difficult. JetBlue is part of a long list of people, companies and businesses that helped this cause.”
He also added that a documentary on the relief effort is in the works. Videographer Christian Lesperance, who accompanied the team on the trip, will compile footage from the Rockport relief effort as well as the collection drive at St. Mary’s.
“What we’re trying to do, ultimately, is make a documentary to bring awareness to people around the country to show them that — six months later — it’s still going on,” Kramer said of the relief efforts. “We know that through Hurricane Sandy — five years later, it’s still going on.”
Volunteers with Waves of Hope, he said, plan to expand their efforts to help victims of all kinds of natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, avalanches and droughts.
“We want to bring in [donations] like the goods we sent down to Texas,” Kramer continued. “It was all stuff that was usable simply because we went through it, so we knew what they needed. Somebody who suffers through a forest fire may need different types of things, so we want to bring in experts from different experiences with natural disasters and see what types of things people need and how we can custom tailor our nonprofit organization through each specific natural disaster.”