LEAGUE CITY, Texas - For Houston-area YMCA district executive director Mike Ace, seeing people of all walks of life come together to help one another in the wake of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey gives him hope for Texas.
Ace, who until five years ago worked in Beloit as the director of the Stateline Family YMCA, stayed in his current home in League City, Texas, just south of Houston, during the storm. The Perry Family YMCA, where Ace is based, has helped lead efforts to provide shelter and basic aid to those in the south Houston area. The facility continues to offer 24-hour childcare for adults who need help as they get back to work or begin the long rebuilding process.
Houston facilities are also serving as a place for school kids to go since some school districts remain closed.
"All of the things the country has been dealing with, politically and otherwise, it doesn't matter and it doesn't come across," Ace said. "Those barriers are totally gone. It's about people helping people."
As flood waters recede and families begin to assess damages and gut homes for renovation, Ace said the Perry YMCA would shift towards providing basic aid and programming for the community. The organization held a second backpack and school supply drive today, with church services for two Houston-area churches planned on Sunday. The YMCA also offered free 30-day memberships for those needing places to clean up and get a good meal.
"Right now it's about serving our local communities," Ace said. "The first thing we had to do was to take care of our employees and their safety. Now it's all about getting the community back on its feet."
Four of the 37 YMCA facilities in the Houston area remain closed.
In League City, Ace said he and his neighbors were in the process of removing ruined drywall, carpeting, flooring and furniture following the excessive flood damage, which has still left areas of Houston 4-10 feet under water.
Ace is facing a major renovation effort like so many other Texas residents, and the director added the home owned by he and his wife had recently been gutted, from walls to floor. But an unknown barrier remains: access to contractors.
Contractors for basic drywall reconstruction are booked through January, Ace said. In terms of trash collection, League City hasn't collected trash in two weeks, with impromptu designated trash areas being set up for residents in surrounding communities to ditch flood debris and damaged property.
"There's not enough contractors, laborers and materials down here right now," Ace stressed.
Ace also has first-hand experience seeing people be victimized by those in the storm's aftermath. Following remediation efforts by a company Thursday, Ace said he and his wife noted multiple belongings were stolen from their home, from jewelry to prescription medications.
"There are people taking advantage of people already," Ace said.
Of the damaged YMCA facilities, contractors are working to access to damaged properties to assess the flooding damage.
"It could take six months or longer until they are able to open their doors," he added.
Reconstruction and recovery efforts in Texas are expected to take years, and Ace said he and others would work together to help one another rebuild.
"It's been amazing," Ace said. "The support keeps you going. You see people helping people and coming up with ways to help."
To get involved in helping Texas recover, visit ymcahouston.org/support-harvey-relief-efforts.