It’s been three years since Hurricane Harvey rammed into the Texas Gulf Coast, relentlessly destroying thousands of homes, businesses, and lives in its path.
The Texas coast has suffered billions of dollars in loss from property damage to unemployment. While we continue to help communities in need recover, we want to take a moment to shine a light on a beautiful story of teamwork, resilience, and compassion.
A County In Crisis
Of the more than 50 Texas counties that were state and federally declared disaster areas due to the storm, Hardin County was ranked #9. Harvey flooded over 5,000 homes in this community just outside of Beaumont, destroying approximately 2,000 of those in an area where less than 13% of residents carried flood insurance.
In response to the disaster, County Judge Wayne McDaniel formed Hardin County Strong, a long-term recovery program intended to partner with individuals and organizations with the money, manpower, and materials to help Hardin County residents recover from disaster-related events. Endeavors was among the program’s nonprofit partners, deploying a team of Disaster Case Managers to Hardin County to advocate for low-income survivors and help them develop comprehensive, step-by-step disaster recovery plans.
A Compassionate Leader
Among the DCMs was Lead Supervisor Brandy Ruben, a long-time Endeavors employee who had spent years working with adolescents in El Paso before transferring to a supervisor position in Beaumont and then, when disaster struck, Hardin County.
From day one, Brandy stepped up to get the job done, taking on more responsibility than her position required, doing whatever it took to help the clients of Hardin. When the Program Manager vacated their role, Brandy stepped up again. What she found was an endless list of clients, lots of “70 and 80-year-olds who were victims of contractor fraud, people sleeping in buses, people who couldn’t afford to repair their homes.”
If we had to describe Brandy in just two words, we’d say fiercely compassionate.
“I’d fight for my clients like I’d fight for my grandmother,” she says. And she has proven it day after day, reviewing case after to case to make sure she understands every detail of the client’s situation, writing letters requesting aid and funding for clients who couldn’t afford housing, repairs, or care. Securing volunteers, donations, and services to rebuild homes and lives.
Never giving up, always sticking to her guns – that’s Brandy. She recalls fighting for a family’s right to include children’s day camp on their list of necessary expenses, saying, “You can’t make kids pay for what’s happened. That day camp might be the only thing keeping them sane.”
Partners In Rebuilding
(Image courtesy of Brandy Ruben)
According to Hardin County Emergency Management, Hardin County Strong completed more than 260 major repair projects, built nine new construction homes, replaced 17 destroyed mobile homes, housed over 3,000 construction volunteers, replaced appliances for 40 households, and replaced furniture for nearly 100.
The recovery of Hardin County has been a hugely rewarding job made possible through the county’s partnership with local and national service, faith-based, and volunteer organizations. Last year, Hardin County Brandy and five Endeavors Disaster Case Managers to an appreciation banquet, where they presented Brandy with an award of appreciation and a Hardin County Strong coin. “There was not a dry eye in the entire banquet hall,” remembers Brandy.
After the Hardin County Strong recovery effort closed in July of this year, Michelle Brewer, the Disaster Recovery Director for Hardin County Strong, wrote to Brandy personally in an email. In the past few years, the two women had worked closely with one another, partners in serving others. Brewer wrote:
I watched you work hard to clean up a big mess in a short period of time. You earned my confidence and you earned my trust. It takes a big team of people working together, and in unity, for a recovery this big to be successful…There is not a doubt in my mind that had you not been put in the position you are now in, Hardin County recovery would not be complete less than three years post-storm.
When Brandy shared that email with us, our hearts just about exploded. Because while Endeavors is dedicated to helping as many vulnerable people as possible, it is equally important that we focus not on numbers, but on people helping people.
When we asked Brandy what she loves most about working at Endeavors, she said, “This is more than just a job, it’s made me open up and be more compassionate towards people. How many times have I gone home crying?”
The business of helping others is hard work — hard, important, rewarding work. For as many times as Brandy has gone home and shed tears for her clients, she has succeeded tenfold in helping them recover and rebuild. She is the definition of service, a shining example of Endeavors’ dedication to helping our fellow humans.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, natural disaster victims, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. In Texas, Endeavors has been serving Hurricane Harvey survivors through comprehensive Disaster Case Management since the storm made landfall in 2017. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.