Angela Guerrero, standing in front of a community art project, is part of a small army of volunteers in nonprofit organizations helping to restore Houston in Hurricane Harvey’s wake. Photo by Scott Dalton

By Thomas Korosec

After Hurricane Ike struck Houston in September 2008, volunteers with the nonprofit Avenue CDC helped fix Angela Guerrero’s grandmother’s house.

Now Guerrero is in a position to repay the favor by helping restore houses damaged by Hurricane Harvey in August.

Guerrero, 31, is part of a small army of volunteers in nonprofit organizations who are helping to restore their communities in Harvey’s wake. Many are being helped by funds from AARP Foundation, which has invested $3.2 million in more than 20 Houston-area organizations to help older residents recover.

Tina Tran, manager of outreach and advocacy for AARP in Houston, said that while the association is not a disaster response agency, it is answering the call of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) to help coordinate the post-Harvey recovery work of nonprofits that serve the city’s older people.

“The big issue, of course, is housing—both short-term housing for people leaving shelters and longer term,” Tran said.

Two years ago, Guerrero began volunteering for Avenue CDC—which stands for Community Development Corp.—to help her Northside Houston neighborhood. Now she’s a community coordinator for volunteers who fix the houses of older residents. The organization, which builds affordable homes and apartments, also runs a program to repair the homes of low-income older people and veterans.

Challenge grants help
A $10,000 grant from AARP will make that task easier for Avenue CDC, one of two Houston-area nonprofits awarded an AARP Community Challenge grant before the hurricane.

The first-ever grants, awarded to 88 projects nationwide, aim to improve social connections, expand work and volunteer opportunities, and get people of different backgrounds to work together.

Avenue CDC is using part of its grant to purchase a trailer to carry tools and supplies for its home repair program. Previously, “we’ve had to borrow trucks all the time.”

Jenifer Wagley, Avenue CDC’s deputy director, said the group had planned to repair 10 homes in early 2018 but is likely to take on more because of the extensive destruction caused by Harvey.

“We lost 10 percent of the housing stock in the fourth-largest city in the nation, so we have our work cut out for us.”

Another part of Avenue CDC’s grant is slated to pay for a large mural in Houston’s Northline neighborhood.

The second challenge grant going to Houston will also find its way into hurricane recovery efforts. A trailer, tools and supplies provided through a $5,000 AARP grant will help Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston’s Chore Corps do minor home repairs and routine chores for homebound older people, many of whom are served by the organization’s Meals on Wheels program.

The chore program grew out of a home visitation effort when volunteers noticed that many older people were unable to do things they once could, including everyday chores, lawn care and minor repairs, said Hannah Weier, Interfaith Ministries’ volunteer services manager.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the organization has included on its chore list the job of helping residents get their homes ready for more major repairs.

“Dozens of our seniors whose homes were flooded are in need of assistance with demolition and repair,” Weier said.

“Houston has really stepped up following Harvey,” she added. “We have many volunteers wanting to help who are ready to get their hands dirty.”

Thomas Korosec is a writer living in Dallas.