In a small building in downtown Katy next to Katy Bible Church, Ron Peters and his crew of staff and volunteers work to help Katy area residents continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey and other …
In a small building in downtown Katy next to Katy Bible Church, Ron Peters and his crew of staff and volunteers with Katy Responds work to help Katy area residents continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey and other disasters that come along. The nonprofit was founded by area churches as a response to Harvey, but Peters said it has grown to look at how to help those that are affected by other disasters as well.
“We’re a disaster organization which is the Harvey and Tax Day floods – all accurate,” Peters said. “But there’s economic disaster. There’s family disaster.”
The main point of the organization is to lift up those living in need, Peters and Director of Administration Chelsea Lucas said.
The organization was founded on that concept as churches came together in late 2017 and early 2018 to try to expand their Harvey relief efforts to more than just mucking and gutting homes. Those area churches approached Houston Responds for advice on how to move forward and Houston Responds acted as a mentor agency to help them for Katy Responds. Initial funding was provided by the churches and Houston Responds, but once an internal fundraising mechanism was established, Katy Responds moved forward on its own, Peters said.
The system put in place to identify homeowners in need of repairs to their houses is frugal and self-sustaining and relies on community members to be productive, Peters said. The community helps with funding, volunteering, community outreach and even assists with identifying homeowners to help, he said.
“Volunteer@KatyResponds.org is the easiest way to get plugged in,” Lucas said. “On social media – like, comment, share (helps with our) message getting spread.”
While volunteering is great, given the professionals that have to get involved such as plumbers and carpenters, Peters said donating is a great way for the community to help out as well.
“We don’t move if we can’t bring dollars in,” Peters said. “That’s our biggest deal. We have 1,000 people on our mainlining list that have come and volunteered with us. The first two years, because there was dollars available out there from The United Way and Red Cross and those types of people – we didn’t build the muscle to encourage donations.”
Peters said Katy Responds is asking the community for donations now because that’s what helps them meet their goal: putting those they help in homes that are safe, sanitary and secure. That goal requires licensed home professionals, he said, and licensed home professionals cost money.
Katy Responds focuses on being frugal though, Peters added. The organization is typically able to do a $50,000 repair and remodel job for about $25,000 by mixing the professional labor with volunteer labor and buying supplies through sources that save them money. Volunteers build fences and paint walls while the plumbers, electricians and carpenters stick to their areas of expertise.
Even the mold remediation is done with cost savings in mind. About 95% of the homes Katy Responds repairs are infested with mold that is negatively impacting the health of the residents of the home. Mold detection kits cost about $400 and remediation can take as long as two weeks of Katy Responds’ typical 12-week project time, Peters said.
“We don’t like to spend (for mold detection) more than twice on a project,” Peters said. “So, we anticipate two times, but we’re hoping we get it killed in one.”
The organization also has partnerships with mold remediation companies that allow Katy Responds to borrow mold treatment equipment such as dehumidifiers, Lucas said.
The process from clients’ perspectives is simple, Lucas said. Once Katy Responds is informed about an area household in need, she reaches out to the homeowner to do an initial assessment. Next, if the household meets Katy Responds’ criteria for help – such as making $50,000 or less per year – Peters assesses the home and calculates project cost. The organization then reaches out to the community and asks for donations for that home repair project. Funding includes community donations and grants, she said. Once the funding is raised, the work is performed in a manner that is respectful of the residents’ privacy and time.
Often, inspections aren’t necessary after a repair because the home is simply being put back to its original condition prior to flooding, Peters said. However, Katy Responds focuses on making sure the home meets their standard of safe, sanitary and secure.
Once the home is finished, Katy Responds tries to connect the homeowner with churches that can provide support to keep raising the quality of life of the household, Peters said.
“Part of our job is to draw as many church body members into each family so that they get a little bit of loving, you know? That they feel community,” Peters said.