Volunteers Serve Homeowners in Need Following Hurricane Harvey

September 2, 2017 • United States

In Victoria, Texas, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers work in Jesus’ Name to help homeowners recover after the storm.

Hurricane Relief

While most everyone else in Victoria was evacuating, or preparing to ride out Hurricane Harvey, Gayle Zwerschke was burying her husband. Gayle’s beloved Billy died the day before the Category 4 storm slammed into southeastern Texas.

Many volunteers are busy with chainsaw work in Victoria, Texas.

Many volunteers are busy with chainsaw work in Victoria, Texas.

She struggled to get her words out through all the tears. “I was hurt internally when he died. But I know Billy is in Heaven.”

She was still in shock and grieving the loss of her husband when forced to deal with Harvey’s destruction.

“I don’t know what I would have done. I couldn’t have done it,” she said to the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who helped remove piles and piles of storm debris from her yard.

All across Victoria—where our first disaster relief unit made its initial deployment in 1998— Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are cleaning up storm debris, tarping damaged roofs, and chain sawing fallen trees. More than 600 homeowners have requested assistance, and we’ve had more than 450 volunteers serve at this site already. We praise God that 38 individuals in Victoria have so far come to faith in Jesus Christ through the witness of our volunteers and Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains. [Statistics updated through Sept. 3.]


Mark Longoria, outreach pastor at Faith Family Church—our host church in Victoria—said it’s difficult to watch the town where he grew up going through such hardship. Yet, he’s overwhelmed by God’s love and favor through the partnership with Samaritan’s Purse.

“Our community looks to us to help in times of crisis. You have helped us mobilize volunteers and helped us to be a light to our community during a devastating time.”

UPDATE as of Sept. 4: Victoria is one of five sites where our volunteers will be hard at work for months helping hurricane victims and demonstrating God’s love. A disaster relief unit is supporting our volunteers in Rockport, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall. We also have a site operating for Santa Fe, and volunteers began work at sites in the Houston area on Monday, Sept. 4. One site is within Houston city limits and the other is just south, in Pearland.

Grateful for Grace

Gayle, 62, walked with her husband through every day of his battle with cancer. His persistent pain and struggle brought sorrow to her soul.

“The doctor explained that having multiple metastatic cancer in the bones is like having all your bones broken. That’s how painful it is,” she explained.

Gayle prays with volunteers at her home.

Gayle prays with volunteers at her home.

Gayle’s husband worked with Federal Emergency Management for more than 16 years. His numerous other jobs include teaching at Texas A&M University and serving as a firefighter.

Tim Falkenstine led a group of volunteers from ALERT, a men’s discipleship program, to work through Samaritan’s Purse on Gayle’s home. Earlier this year, he also brought a group to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse after the tornado in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Tim was amazed at Gayle’s faith. “To see her joy encouraged me. She loves God and still wants to share that love even during this time in her life.”

During her deepest grief, Gayle thanked God for His protection during the storm and for sending Samaritan’s Purse volunteers from around the country to encourage her heart.

“I praise God for your presence and your light,” she said.

A Phone Call Brings Hope

The Bible found in Mary's home after the storm passed.

The Bible found in Mary’s home by volunteers after the storm passed.

Mary Martinez is another homeowner who reached out to Samarian’s Purse for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Heavy rains pummeled her roof, causing water to leak into and flood both bedrooms. Several trees in her yard were also uprooted.

Mary, 65, didn’t have a plan for what to do next. She couldn’t do the cleanup on her own.

When Mary went to a food and water distribution at Faith Family Church she received a flyer with information about Samaritan’s Purse and a phone number. She called, desperate for help tarping her roof. A day or two later, an army of volunteers showed up at her doorstep.

“Oh, my goodness, it was a sight—all the volunteers,” Mary said. “If they weren’t here, this would have taken years.”

Our volunteers not only tarped the roof, but also removed all her waterlogged belongings and removed debris. Although nearly all of Mary’s personal treasures were destroyed, volunteers found among the wet, muddy mess several gems: A Bible, a school portrait of one of her daughters, and a family photo from nearly 30 years ago.

Samaritan's Purse volunteers tarp roofs of damaged homes in coastal Texas.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers tarp roofs of damaged homes in coastal Texas.

“I just wanted the roof to be tarped because it was raining and everything was getting soaked. I didn’t expect any of this,” she said. Mary’s eyes filled with tears and she paused, overwhelmed with gratitude to a group of strangers who came to her aid when she had nowhere else to turn.

“The first day [after the hurricane] I could hardly speak. Now, I’m so hopeful,” she said. “You never know what one phone call will bring.”

Receiving a Blessing

Accepting help is often hard for Mandy Robinson. Mandy and her husband Tom are both Air Force veterans. Mandy has worked in the sheriff’s department. She is a mother of four. Mandy is used to being the one to offer hope during crisis.

Mandy Robinson with the Billy Graham Study Bible given to her by Samaritan's Purse volunteers.

Mandy Robinson with the Billy Graham Study Bible given to her by Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.

But after Hurricane Harvey, Mandy found herself on the other side. She was the one who needed some help. The Robinsons’ yard was full of storm debris and a number of trees were completely uprooted.

“We couldn’t have done the work these guys did on our own. To receive the blessing [from Samaritan’s Purse volunteers] is amazing. It means the world to us,” she said.

Mandy and Tom became Christians seven years ago after years of living as alcoholics. Everything changed once they committed their lives to Jesus. “I had tried to stop drinking on my own but I couldn’t,” Mandy explained. “We’ve been clean for seven years.”

For Mandy, the Christ-like attitude in which the volunteers served meant just as much, if not more, than the manual labor.

“The spirit of the Lord’s presence was here today,” she said. “It’s uplifting.”

Note: This article was originally published the evening of Sept. 1, and some information was updated on Sept. 2 and 3. A final update was made on Sept. 4 to reflect that all five of our volunteer sites in Texas are now up and running.

Bahamas destruction-Hurricane Dorian
Hurricane Relief Samaritan's Purse responds to the urgent needs of families devastated by the wind, rain, and storm surge of catastrophic hurricanes. We come alongside hurting people to bring emergency relief and practical help in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Hurricane Relief 013779