Galveston County charitable organizations need more toys than usual this Christmas to help families still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

“There is a great need,” said Chris Delesandri, executive director of United Way Galveston County Mainland. “The devastation is not only for the kids. All the agencies are scraping together for Christmas.”

Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, about 200 miles south of Galveston County, but in the 72 or so hours that followed, it dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some parts of the area, swelling creeks and bayous and flooding about 20,000 houses in the county.

Many families lost belongings either during the flood or during the mucking.

“Where do they keep the toys at home?” Salvation Army Capt. Jennifer Jones said. “On the floor.”


The Salvation Army of Galveston County has almost three times as many requests this year for its annual Angel Tree program that provides toys and clothes to children as Christmas presents. The organization had 1,026 requests in 2016; this year it had more than 3,000 requests, Jones said.

More than 820 children in the Angel Tree program were still waiting for someone to choose their card and agree to buy them an outfit, a special toy the child requested and a book for Christmas. The deadline to donate gifts for an Angel Tree child is Monday, but the agency is looking for whatever donations it can get.

“We are worried about a toy shortage this year,” Jones said.

“When we started disaster relief, we included applications for Angel Tree,” Director of Development Holly 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.

“We knew recovery was going to be long,” Jones said. “It’s a horrible stress for families at Christmas.”


Interfaith Caring Ministries in League City also has seen a surge in requests for help, grants manager David Watkins said.

“The last couple of months, we’ve been the busiest I’ve ever seen the agency,” Watkins said. “And it hasn’t slowed down.”

Many people going to the agency need help paying utility bills and are getting groceries from the organization’s food bank, he said. They also sign up for a toy giveaway that the agency is having Dec. 12. The agency is looking for toy donations now through Dec. 8, Watkins said.

People whose homes were perfectly fine and dry after Harvey are now out of work because they lost a job to the historic natural disaster or ran a small business that Harvey obliterated.

“They were making ends meet and had savings,” Watkins said. “All of a sudden, they lost a job or a business. They lived off savings for a couple of months.”

In October, the agency helped 60 households in northern Galveston County and 64 in Harris County.

“That’s the busiest month we’ve had in at least five years,” Watkins said.


Jones was at The Salvation Army emergency shelter in La Marque as the first evacuees escaped Harvey’s flood in late August.

“They were bringing people in dump trucks to the shelter,” she said.

A soaking wet family with four children wearing pajamas arrived at the shelter with no shoes because they swam out of their home, Jones said.

“The kids, all they wanted was to have something to hold on to,” she said. Jones only had crayons and coloring books, so that’s she gave them and that’s what they hugged.

A new teddy bear would mean the world to the youngest victims of Harvey, Jones said.

Besides donations and Angel Tree adoptions, the Salvation Army needs help sorting toys and goodies in preparation for the Dec. 16 distribution day.

“I desperately need volunteers,” she said.

Jones also would like some musical groups to play for families during the distribution day, she said.

A lot of Harvey victims are refusing help, Delesandri said.

“They’ve never asked for help in their lives,” he said. “That’s one of the concerns. A lot of people who need help won’t ask for help. I don’t know how you put a number on that.”

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246;

(4) comments

Ray Taft

My Harvey experience with the Salvation Army and other charities in Galveston County is that they’re totally overwhelmed with the magnitude of the need.

The models they use to help people is not working. Many charities set up centers and expect people to go to them. And for the people who do show up at the centers, the charities are not able to keep up with the huge demand. They simply cannot think out of the box, so many many people go without much needed assistance.

Millions have been donated to Harvey Relief and there is still great need because apparently the aid is not being distributed to those who need it. Instead, charities complain people are not coming to them. I think they should have focused on going out to where the people were to meet their needs right there. People in need feel forgotten, unimportant and disavowed.

Jim Forsythe

Ray, please lay out your plan to think out of the box. As you said "charities are not able to keep up with the huge demand"
If you know someone that needs aid is not being distributed to them, please let the groups that are helping, know who they are.

Just a few groups helping.
"Houston Furniture Bank has provided essential furniture to nearly 1,500 Houston-area families as part of our Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, giving out thousands of pieces of furniture to help families rebuild," said Houston Furniture Bank Executive Director Oli Mohammed. "Houston Furniture Bank will continue providing furniture to families and individuals for as long as supplies last."
One of the locations'  
Mattress Firm, 20814 Gulf Freeway, #Q, Webster, TX 77598

 The IRS is providing help to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Special tax relief and assistance is available to taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster
Residents of 11 counties may be eligible for D-SNAP

Ray Taft

Mr. Forsythe,
Really? The IRS isn’t a charity and I clearly stated what I thought charities should do.

Jim Forsythe

. You are right, that everyone was "totally overwhelmed with the magnitude of the need."Charities survive from people giving.
At this time, some people have not got their lives back to normal, so they are unable to give . Most Charities are sending out more assess then they are taking in. If they would do what you think they should, they would need more volunteers.  
If "The models they use to help people is not working." what model would you suggest?
If you have a better model, I'm sure they would like to hear about it.

Do you expect the charities to go door to door? 
If the charities are not able to keep up with the huge demand now, how would they be able to keep up with the demand of going to peoples houses? 
 "apparently the aid is not being distributed to those who need it." Which people, are not receiving aid?
Have them contact these groups, if they need help.

These are a few of the groups that are helping.
Food Bank, HIS ministries, The Galveston County Recovery Fund which is being handled by United Way. JJ Watts , Salvation Army, Red Cross, Churches are helping, Galveston County Residents Residential Disaster Assistance Outreach,
United Way Galveston County Mainland,  Catholic Charities Hurricane Harvey,   Portlight Strategies Hotline for people with disabilities,
The Gypsy Rose Market  help's direct donations directly to non-profits that will help our Galveston County community recover from Hurricane Harvey.      Gallery Furniture, Houston Furniture Bank .
Feed Galveston Project First Lutheran Church will host a "Feed Galveston" food packaging event on January 20, 2018 as part of the ELCA's God's Work .

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