Story and photos by Dr. John Fisher, American Red Cross volunteer

Melanie Camponovo first felt the need to abandon her Portland, Texas, home on the Texas Gulf Coast the evening of August 24. Her lights flickered and then went out. Harvey’s impact seemed almost certain and potentially devastating. A weather warning predicted this major – and deadly — hurricane. It was time to take her dog and leave her home to stay with friends who lived away from the coast.

By Friday, the hurricane had become a Category 4, producing devastating winds over 130 miles and excessive rainfall of 40 inches in 48 hours. The storm surge reached 12 feet in areas.

When Melanie returned home the following Monday, she found her roof was damaged, trees had been knocked down and her home had shifted, causing a gas leak. She quickly turned the gas off and called a plumber. As she moved back in, her neighbor came by and smelled gas. So she moved out again and called the plumber for a second time. She called the roofer who had put a new roof on her home three years before. Between jobs, he was able to make repairs.

Melanie felt lucky. She was better off than many of her neighbors. Yet repair costs and other losses were causing a strain on her finances.

She heard about the American Red Cross financial assistance of $400 for Hurricane Harvey survivors. She applied and a glitch in the system indicated her application had been denied. She appealed and received approval, with a reference number to pick her money up from Walmart.

“I’m going to use the money to help pay some of the extra bills from damage caused by the hurricane,” she said.

When the Red Cross set up to help the community apply for financial assistance, Melanie came out to volunteer. She talked to people in the line, entered new client applications in the computer and helped people file appeals.

“I appreciated the help from the Red Cross,” she said. “And I felt I needed to give back.”

Melanie was one of 477,000 households to receive assistance totaling $190 million in assistance as of October 9.

“These numbers will rise as applications and appeals continue to be processed,” shared Debra Murphy-Luera, the Executive Director of the Coastal Bend chapter.

Red Cross financial assistance of $400 was available to qualifying households that were severely impacted by Harvey within 39 Texas counties. The focus of the financial assistance program was to deliver funds to households whose primary residence was severely affected by the storm, who were displaced for several days and who expressed an immediate need for help with life-sustaining items.

Nearly seven weeks after Hurricane Harvey came ashore, the Red Cross is still on the ground, part of a large team of agencies and organization responding to communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey.Melanie Camponovo at desk (1)

In the coming weeks, the Red Cross will continue to work alongside local, state and federal entities and community partners to initiate long-term recovery services which will focus on those individuals and families most severely impacted. Disasters of this size are too large for any single agency, and the Red Cross is just one member of a broader disaster response community.