Hurricane Harvey ruined the beds of many Friendswood children.
This news disturbed Connie Ratisseau, who lives in Friendswood with her husband, Phil. Their home in the Wedgewood area was flooded with 33 inches of water and neighboring houses also were inundated.
She saw an immediate need and started working to get children sleeping on something softer than a concrete floor, Ratisseau said. She called the effort Kots4Kids.
“We started it out because we heard on Facebook that elementary kids were sleeping on floors,” Ratisseau said.
Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, about 200 miles south of Friendswood, and dumped as much as 50 inches of rain in the area, devastating about 3,000 homes in the city of almost 40,000 residents.
NEED FOR HELP
About 200 students who attend Wedgewood Elementary School, 4000 Friendswood Link Road, had to evacuate their flooded homes during Harvey’s inundation. In mid-November, 12 of them were still living in hotels, school officials said.
And the school became an emergency shelter for the surrounding neighborhoods.
After the water receded and families went home, much of what they had was destroyed or gone. Beds were ruined and toys were covered in dirty residue or just gone.
Relief agencies have stepped in to help families recovering from Harvey, and not only do more children need more, the people who would usually donate to such causes were also hit hard by the historic natural disaster.
The Salvation Army of Galveston County, for example, has twice as many requests for the annual Angel Tree program that brings toys and clothes for children’s Christmas presents, Director of Development Holly McDonald said. While the organization had 1,026 requests in 2016, this year the number has more than doubled, she said.
“When we started disaster relief, we included applications for Angel Tree,” McDonald said. “We have a lot of people in need.”
Most of the requests came from Dickinson, but residents in other parts of the county also applied for the holiday help, including some in Friendswood, McDonald said.
Ratisseau began with an intention to buy cots for the children as a temporary aid.
“The cots were expensive,” she said. They cost almost as much as a bed, she said.
A friend put her in touch with an organization that could purchase large quantities of beds at a low price. For $100, Ratisseau’s organization could buy a twin mattress, a box spring, a bed frame, a linen, a blanket and a pillow.
“We gave out 70 beds,” Ratisseau said.
Houston-based Brothers Produce loaned a truck to the group to make deliveries.
The group also worked with Friendswood Independent School District and Clear Creek Independent School District to identify children who needed a bed. Clear Creek ISD also loaned a box truck to make deliveries, Ratisseau said.
Ratisseau’s grass roots efforts to help students impressed Clear Creek spokeswoman Elaina Polsen, who said it was generous and kind.
During the spring campaign to pass the district’s $487 million bond referendum in May, Polsen and Ratisseau were on opposing sides. Polsen represented the district’s case for needing the bond issue while Ratisseau, a member of the Citizens For CCISD political action committee, questioned the expense to tax payers and the debt load. The bond passed.
Wedgewood Elementary School also became a distribution center after Harvey for victims who needed groceries, clothes and food, Polsen said.
While the neighborhood, which is in the Harris County part of Friendswood, is returning to normal, recovery is a long process, school officials said.
”The need is still there,” Polsen said.