Hurricane Harvey dropped approximately 27 trillion gallons of water on Texas and Louisiana. Vermont is over 1,000 miles away from this devastation, but distance did not stop Vermonters from aiding the affected areas.
Whitney Troy-Vowell, co-owner of Oh My Dog, a daycare and boarding kennel for dogs in South Burlington, traveled with workers from All-Breed Rescue to Texas. They brought loads of supplies, donated from all over Vermont and New Hampshire.
“We’re just human beings wanting to help,” Troy-Vowell said.
Close to 30,000 pounds of supplies were donated. Supplies included bottled water, medicine such as Iodine and Pedialyte, gauze, pet crates, batteries, cat litter, leashes, collars, bowls, dog beds, diapers, kitten and puppy formula, along with dog, cat, horse and gerbil food. The team of 11 workers stayed in the Greater Houston area for a week, distributing supplies to animal shelters alongside volunteers from all over the U.S.
“It was just amazing to see everyone come together,” Scarlett Clark, the front manager at All Breed Rescue, said.
On the way to his last delivery, Troy-Vowell’s truck got a flat tire and caught on fire. Other drivers attempted to help before the fire department came, and successfully put out the flames. When Troy-Vowell thanked the firefighters, he was brought to tears by the amount of gratitude the Texans showed him.
“I learned so much by watching them deal with crisis and loss and tragedy with honor and dignity, with respect. With a sense of selflessness that I’ve never seen before,” Troy-Vowell said.
The team brought 34 dogs back to Vermont. Within two days of their return, 33 dogs had been adopted.
“It just completely spun my whole perception of people and humanity on it’s axis,” Troy-Vowell said.
A group focused on human rescue was also sent down to Texas. 14 members from the State of Vermont Urban Search and Rescue Task Force One made the trip. The team’s mission statement is as follows:
“The primary mission of Vermont Task Force One is to provide advanced technical search and rescue capabilities to victims trapped or entombed in structurally damaged buildings.”
In an email to the Register, Program Coordinator Michael Cannon wrote, “Our main mission was to conduct primary searches in areas of the county that were either not done or were not marked as being done. Our secondary mission was the recovery of any human remains that were discovered.”
The Vermonters worked with Texas Task Force One in investigating areas that had been or were currently flooded. The entire mission was completed in ten days.
“What stands out in my mind the most was the size of the disaster, it was told to us that it was 400 miles long and some 150 miles inland. Vermont would sit entirely inside the devastated area and then some,” Cannon wrote. “We would go back in a heartbeat if we were requested!”
Not everyone is able to make the journey to Texas. Many Burlington High School (BHS) community members are eager to aid hurricane victims, but are unsure of a way to do so.
“I didn’t know how exactly I would, myself, contribute, but I knew that people were contributing in my community. Which made me feel a little bit better that it wasn’t just like we were standing back and watching other people do the work,” Abigail Grimm, a BHS sophomore, said.
Monetary donations are an immediate and much needed way of assisting hurricane victims. School Nurse JoAnne Limanek advises students to do their research before donating. She previously donated through Catholic Relief Services. Limanek also mentioned companies like American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and ASPCA that still taking contributions. Smaller or local organizations that target specific relief issues are another option for donors who want to know exactly what their money is going towards.
Isabel Bloch, a junior at BHS, agrees that the distance between Vermont and Texas makes it difficult for students to understand the full destruction, and feel like they could make a difference. She does understand that there is still plenty of time to assist Hurricane Harvey victims.
“The restoration [of the devastated area] is just getting started,” Bloch said.