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Good Samaritan joins relief effort in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Tommy Matthews in front of a typical scene where soaked furniture and demolition debris is piled up in front of houses…block after block after block.

By Daniel Williams; photos courtesy of Tom Matthews and Samaritan’s Purse

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast, knocking out power, flooding homes, causing horrific devastation in its wake, Happy Canyon resident Tom Matthews, like so many around the country, watched the reports and felt an emotional connection to those who were suffering. Initially, he made donations to the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse, two of the organizations, he learned, that “do the most good” with every dollar.

However, he felt he should do more. Powerful images on the internet moved him to take action. Matthews said, “I saw a SWAT officer carrying a mother and her sleeping child and the Cajun Navy with their remarkable initiative and a can-do spirit that is uniquely American.”

There were so many other images that shaped Matthews’ thinking; images of people helping and people working together to help others who had suffered so much hardship. “As a Christian, I believe the Lord put this on my heart, and I began to research what organizations in Houston could benefit from my [construction-related] skills.”

He found a good fit with Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to victims of war, natural disasters, disease, famine, poverty and persecution in more than 100 countries. This year the organization has helped with relief efforts toward hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, among others.

“Once we mobilize in an area, we look to do three main things for those in distress: Temporary roof repair to halt leaks; tree and debris cleanup, which can take up about 75 percent of our efforts; and muck outs,” said Randy Corn, a program manager with Samaritan’s Purse.

Corn said muck outs are vital to saving a home once it’s been flooded with at least four feet of water. All the furniture has to be taken out, all the insulation has to be removed to keep mold from spreading, and then a chemical is sprayed to kill the mold.

End-of-day prayer time with the two homeowners (seated on the tailgate), moving back into their house for the first time since the flood. Tommy Matthews is pictured far left.

As an architect with expertise in design and construction, Matthews said the muck outs fit his skill set. “Mucking out houses, ripping out soggy and molding drywall in houses that had been flooded and preparing them for repair by general contractor – that is the kind of work I could get excited about doing.”

After receiving complete support from his wife to volunteer and having his son, Tommy, and friend Rick Reitz join him, Matthews headed to Texas to help. As he saw the devastation firsthand, he relayed his thoughts to family and friends through text messages.

“The entire block was hit hard. Piles of furniture and construction debris in every yard … the kind of loss on a scale that I’ve only seen in pictures. The owner of the house our team worked in, Mr. Byrd, was standing next to me during the prayer circle at the end of the day. With tears in his eyes (and mine), he said, ‘I will never forget you. No, never.’ This made the entire enterprise worthwhile.”

For more information on how you can volunteer or donate to an organization during a disaster, go to Colorado VOAD at covoad.communityos.org/cms/home.

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