Arlington officer, Fort Worth Catholic Charities respond to Harvey

by Matthew Smith

North Texas Catholic

September 11, 2017

Liz Vestal looks at her destroyed home in Rockport, Texas, Sept. 8, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Vestal and her husband are parishioners of St. Peter Church, which also was destroyed in the hurricane. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

HOUSTON — Arlington Police Department Detective Tim Henz spent two weeks sleeping on a cot in the racquetball court at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

A member of St. Jude Parish in Mansfield, Henz was one of about 60 Arlington officers who responded in stages to areas hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.

“APD asked for officers willing to go help out,” Henz said. “The first group was myself and 19 others sent for two weeks not knowing what conditions to expect.”

Working small cities throughout Liberty County, Henz encountered areas that were already economically depressed had been further ravaged by Harvey. Among other duties, Henz and other officers freed up officers in Cleveland, Liberty, and other small towns to concentrate on their regular duties.

“Cleveland has 11 officers and couldn’t believe we were there to help,” Henz said. “It basically doubled their force. We did everything from providing cars to directing traffic and working shelters to pulling furniture out of elderly residents’ homes so they could answer their calls.”

A member of the Knights of Columbus, Henz visited several Catholic churches during his time down south.

“I saw several Knights around,” Henz said. “When I’d visit a church I’d ask where their Knights were and they’d say they’re all out helping.”

Henz said he’s ready for a break from exhaustion and 16-hour days but would do it again in a heartbeat.

“Very rewarding though and the people down there gave us a tremendous reception,” Henz said. “A lot of people would see our Arlington uniforms and were just so thankful we’d come all that way to help.

“We’d grab a granola bar heading out to work and run into people who are dealing with flooding — no money or clothes or house — and they’re trying to buy us lunch. ‘No, we’re here to help you,’ but you can’t not be touched by that and the smiles and hugs we got from the kids.

A volunteer rests in the parish hall of St. Peter Church in Rockport, Texas. The church, which is home to mainly Vietnamese-American Catholics, was totally destroyed in Hurricane Harvey. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“It goes both ways though. I remember people from other cities coming in to help after Arlington had tornados.”

Catholic Charities Fort Worth President Heather Reynolds shared similar sentiments.

“The positive thing through this has been seeing so many people of goodwill step up with a coordinated desire and effort to help.”

CCFW, in coordination with the state and national organization and state and federal governmental organizations, geared up for an effort “broad and inclusive” — daily assessing needs on a situational awareness basis given the ever-changing picture of recovery effort priorities.

Reynolds said recovery planning must be holistic and long term.

“While CCFW believes in the long-term focus, we are assisting in relief activities immediately,” Reynolds said.

Through participation in relief efforts following hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Sandy, and other disasters, CCFW officials have learned that recovery takes time.

“For Katrina it was five to six years or more to get those affected back to their previous conditions of life, if not better,” Reynolds said.

While the need for CCFW, and area Catholics in general, to help out is self-evident, Reynolds pointed out that many who are most affected by Harvey include the groups CCFW strives to assist on a daily basis.

“We operate under the mission of working to end poverty and to protect the most vulnerable in our communities,” Reynolds said. “Major disasters tend to disproportionately impact the poor, in many cases leaving them worse off than they were, not to mention placing others into poverty.”

The goal is to help as many in need as possible, Reynolds said, particularly low income, minority, elderly, and disabled victims.

“Now is a time for our Catholic population and all people of goodwill to come together and to offer our time as well as other resources to assist our brothers and sisters in need,” Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson said.

Hurricane Harvey’s destructive path through Texas and Louisiana left thousands with needs profound and immediate. Harvey had resulted in at least 74 deaths as of Sept. 9, according to the Associated Press. More than 210,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the Category 4 hurricane and Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the financial damages could range from $150 billion to $180 billion.

Cathy Monroe, a Nolan High School graduate who now lives in the Houston area, said other than minor carpet damage, her home was spared.

“We have pulled carpet and opened walls but are very lucky compared to so many,” Monroe said.

Since much of her husband’s family lives in the area, she and her family decided to ride Harvey out.

“It was scary,” Monroe said. “I kept going from the front window to the TV news before things hit and we went to Mass that Saturday night because we knew Sunday was going to be a lot worse. But we wanted to stay to be able to help out after. What’s struck me since is just the amount of people out checking in and helping each other.”

North Texas area Catholics continue to respond to the needs of those affected by the hurricane, including teams of volunteers from various parishes who are being deployed to the coast for a week to two weeks at a time to help CCFW on the ground. CCFW’s Reynolds said prayer and monetary or gift card donations allow those affected to better meet their communities’ individual needs.

Gift cards for gasoline, fast food restaurants, Walmart, H-E-B Grocery Store, Home Depot, etc. are suggested. Food, clothing, furniture, and other items pose logistical transportation problems and many affected areas already have surpluses of such items, Reynolds said.

Volunteers are also needed for area shelters and to travel to areas in need.

For donation locations, volunteer opportunities, or to donate online, visit

HOUSTON — Arlington Police Department Detective Tim Henz spent two weeks sleeping on a cot in the racquetball court at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

Published (until 12/27/2035)