Hurricane Harvey Update: Help Is Houston-Bound

The devastation Hurricane Harvey left in its wake is no match for the heart within Washington Hebrew Congregation. As floodwaters rose in Texas, destroying homes, hospitals, businesses, and schools in its path, plans to help came together at WHC. With appreciation and gratitude, we are pleased to share that this past Wednesday morning, a livestock trailer filled to the edges with everything but animals, left the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center for Houston, Texas.

This effort began with a farmer doing what farmers do when natural disasters strike. Michael “Farmer Mike” Protas, a WHC member and owner of One Acre Farm, was planning to drive his trailer from Maryland to Houston to rescue and shelter livestock until the farms were ready to receive the animals back.

Rabbi Lustig, a natural connector, saw an opportunity in that still-empty trailer. At “An American Caravan of Peace” in Abu Dhabi this past May in Abu Dhabi, Rabbi Lustig met Rev. Dr. Steven Bezner, the senior pastor of Houston Northwest Church (HNW). The clergy’s work to promote peace and interfaith dialogue has continued, and when the hurricane devastated Texas, Rabbi Lustig reached out to his new colleague to offer support.

Rev. Dr. Bezner shared that as Houston moves from rescue to recovery, HNW has set up a massive distribution center at their church to quickly move truckloads of donated items into the neediest areas of the city. HNW is also coordinating “mud out” teams, which are helping to clear and clean mud that the floodwaters left behind in homes so rebuilding can begin. Rabbi Lustig made a list of HNW’s most pressing needs and then started making phone calls.

There was a call for nourishment.

The WHC Hunger Project team received one of the first calls, and they set up a “flash packing” for Tuesday morning at the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center. Forty-three volunteers, including Friends of the Hunger Project and ECC parents showed up with the enthusiasm and energy of hundreds more, and in just a few hours, 10,000 meals were packaged and ready to be transported in the trailer to the disaster area.

There was a call for protection.

The floodwaters are contaminated with toxic and potentially lethal bacteria, so the next call for help Rabbi Lustig made was to Debra Robins. Debbie and her siblings, Lori Rodman and David Sadugor (all WHC members), run Century Distributors, Inc., a business started by their late parents, Sheldon and Judy Sadugor. The clean-up effort in Texas is massive, and Century donated buckets, bleach and cleaning products, protective gloves, personal hygiene items, first aid supplies, gas cans, and paper goods to help Houston go through this arduous and heartbreaking process safely.

There was a call for comfort.

So many families lost everything when their homes flooded. Although wearing the same outfit day after day is not desirable, it has become a reality for both adults and children. For babies, however, diapers are not a reusable commodity. Thus, Rabbi Lustig’s third call was to DJ Jensen and Alexis Tinsley, the directors of WHC’s early childhood centers. DJ and Alexis understand the needs of families with babies and young children, and through their Parent Committees, they had a ready resource to turn to for help. By noon on Tuesday, their families had mobilized, and 61 cartons of diapers were ready to be loaded into Farmer Mike’s Houston-bound trailer.

And there is still a call for financial support.

The best way you, as an individual, can help Hurricane Harvey’s victims in Texas and Louisiana is by donating to WHC’s Sylvia & Saul Ritzenberg Humanitarian Fund. One hundred percent of every donation to this fund is being directed to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. You can make a secure, life-saving contribution on our website:

WTOP reported on this effort and Michael Protas’ trip to Texas. You can read about it here.

We have a gallery of #texasbound photos here.