Hurricane Harvey: The Center Recovers

Pile Outside AAC

As many of you are already aware, The Center was severely impacted by flooding after Hurricane Harvey. Our Willow River Farms campus sustained damage to the recently repaired chapel and a client home, but it was our West Dallas campus, just off the banks of Buffalo Bayou, that felt the storm’s full force.

Five of our six campus program buildings flooded, with some areas under more than 12 feet of water. Power was lost on the entire campus with the exception of our Cullen Residence Hall. Our Adult Activity Center for adults with more severe medical needs lost critical medical equipment and will require extensive repairs. Our auditorium—which has hosted a number of community events, performances, and client talent shows over the years—was destroyed. Our Dental Clinic specialized in serving people with disabilities, whose recent renovation we wrote about in our August newsletter, was a total loss.

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Left: A chair in The Center’s dental clinic in August, after recent renovations. Right: A chair in The Center’s dental clinic after flooding due to Hurricane Harvey.

While Harvey was strong, The Center has proven to be stronger. Thanks to the efforts of our many, many volunteers, we have dried out most of our campus buildings. We were able to resume our day programs after a week’s hiatus. Our day and residential programs, as well as the majority of our administrative staff, are still operating out of a single building while we work to restore power and air conditioning to the rest of our campus. It’s crowded, but our clients and employees are all safe, which means we already have what’s most important.

Clients await their buses in the afternoon.

Clients in The Center’s day programs await their rides outside of Cullen Residence Hall.

Community support has been tremendous. After we put out a call for urgently needed items, in-kind donations began coming in from across the greater Houston community and beyond—as far away as the east coast! Almost immediately, people began contacting us to ask how they could volunteer. One particular Saturday, we hosted nearly 500 volunteers from Baker Hughes/GE on both of our campuses, breaking The Center’s record for most volunteers in a single day.

Volunteers and donors stepped in to help.

Left: Volunteers from Baker Hughes/GE helped clean up our West Dallas campus. Right: Kevin Minatrea from First Colony Baptist Church dropped off donations all the way from New England.

We have also made incredible progress toward our challenging goal of raising funds to help restore The Center back to full operations. Two generous matching grants have helped us get there: a $500,000 match from long-time volunteers David and Maire Baldwin and a $100,000 challenge grant from the Cuenod family and Indumar Products (one of our longstanding employment training vendors). Thanks to the generosity of our supporters–and notably empowered by a $100,000 donation from ALS Limited–we have successfully met these matches and raised more than $1,220,000.

While the response has been incredible, our restoration costs will exceed this amount and we are continuing the Recovery Campaign to try to reach the goal of $1,450,000.

Clients at the ALS Fun Day

Clients of The Center enjoyed a well-deserved Fun Day, courtesy of ALS Limited.

While there is still considerable work to be done, our recovery efforts have come a long way in a short period of time. Thank you to everyone who has contributed, volunteered, and sent words of encouragement in this incredible time of need.

If you would like to help, please consider making a contribution to The Center. You can visit our donations page or call Amy Sonnenberg at 281-798-4044.

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