Locals Taking the Lead
When Laguna local Josh Nuefeld read about an Israeli aid group making their way to Houston, he decided he, too, should lend a hand. He quickly mobilized friends and family to bring tools and cleaning supplies to hurricane-ravaged Texas neighborhoods struggling to recover as home improvement stores, too, were wiped out.
“We’ll be pulling the wet, ruined furniture and carpets out, mucking houses, cutting out drywall that has been damaged, and helping out in a multitude of ways,” Nuefeld wrote on a crowd-funding site, YouCaring. He linked his post to Nextdoor, the platform that allows neighbors to connect with each other. As of the beginning of the week over $20,000 had been raised.
“Between balancing our jobs, wives and kids and planning this trip, this last week has been exhausting,” said local Jeremy Farris, one of Nuefeld’s friends who will be taking vacation days so he can fly to Houston and meet up with two other friends, local Michael Rosenberg and John Cressy of Coto de Caza. They left this past Sunday in a truck pulling a U-Haul full of supplies. Enterprise rented them the truck at a reduced rate.
On Saturday, the rental trailer parked at Anita and Glenneyre Streets drew the attention of passersby. One person stopped to inquire if the gloves, chain saws, box knives, brooms, shovels, fans and assorted tools piled around it were for sale. They were not.
Laguna building contractor Sonny Myers was among the contributors, arriving with a pick-up full of lights, tools and facemasks he’ll no longer be using, since he’s shutting down his construction business. Handing over a nail gun in a well-worn red plastic case, he cautioned Nuefeld, “be careful with this; it’s like a weapon.”
Farris, a former Marine, Nuefeld, Rosenberg and Cressy coordinated with the veterans group, Combined Arms and Pastor Becky Keenan at Gulf Meadows Church in Houston, who directed them where their muscle and supplies were needed most.
After off-loading their supplies and tools when they arrived at the church on Monday, the foursome donned tool belts and respirator masks and was assigned a nearby home to work on the following day.
They shifted assignments after encountering an elderly woman, Gloria, who had slept in her car after her house was inundated with more than two feet of water. “She was shy at first. She wanted to help clean up her house. We made her laugh. It’s a day we’ll all remember,” Nuefeld said in a telephone interview, adding that he’s never been so exhausted.
The church also sustained significant damage, but has already been gutted and new drywall installed, Nuefeld said. Pallets of water, diapers and other supplies sit in the sanctuary. The top priority is filling “needs requests” from the nearby 750-home subdivision of Gulf Meadows. Requests can be made online or picked up in person.
Nuefeld’s parents, Jane and Ray, covered the cost of airfare for Nuefeld and Farris and shipping costs for supplies that didn’t fit in the truck. Jim Labbe donated hotel rewards points to cover the foursome’s lodging and Bill Ferguson at Ganahl Lumber in Capistrano Beach sold them wheelbarrows and hand trucks at cost.
Local clothing storeowner Gila Liebovitch donated 10 percent of receipts for several days to four Houston charities, and extended her donation to hurricane victims in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. As of this week, she isn’t sure how much she will be donating but estimates it could be between $3,000 to $6,000.
Katrina Martino, owner of the Hudson Salon in Boat Canyon, has asked locals to clean out their closets and bring donations to an empty suite in her building that the landlord offered for storage. She has also partnered with Dr. Juris Bunkis of Newport Beach to set up collection sites there for clothing, toiletries and nonperishable food items. Cash donations may be made to the gofundme page, Love from Laguna.
Laura Beggins, Houston resident and sister-in law of Indy columnist Susan Velazquez, owns two homes that were inundated with five feet of water. In an email she reported the “extraordinary good works by Jim McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture, who opened two showrooms as shelters last Saturday (Sept. 2) and his wife Linda who opened their fitness club to evacuees as well. He sent 18-wheelers of bottled water to the city of Beaumont when their water supply was contaminated.”
Martino shared a tearful phone call with McIngvale, known in Houston as “Mattress Mack.” She plans to meet up with him when she transports donations she’s collected in Laguna and Newport Beach via motorhome, departing Friday, Sept. 22. Martino’s efforts have drawn support from the Laguna Beach Parents Club and Dan Melhase, president of Provenance Realty Group in Laguna Beach.
Artists Get In On The Act
The Laguna Playhouse staff and cast of “A Night with Janis Joplin,” which passed the hat in recent performances, raised $17,000 to support displaced staff at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Leslie Anne Mogul says in a statement. Direct donations may be made to the employee assistance fund at alleytheatre.org/employee-flood-assistance-fund.
Churches Send Support and Blessings
Rev. Lester MacKenzie at St. Mary’s reports that the Episcopal Relief and development Organization, has representatives on the ground in Houston.
St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church implemented an emergency “second collection” last Sunday, which was mirrored throughout the diocese.
Rev. Rod Echols of Neighborhood Congregational Church, said the congregation is donating funds for hurricane victims through the United Church of Christ. “The funds we raise will be matched by the Retirement Housing Foundation based in Long Beach, doubling our impact.”
In the article Village Steps in to Aid Hurricane Recovery the Neufeld’s family name was misspelled. The correct spelling is Neufeld. The writer regrets the error.