GRATITUDE: IN THE WAKE OF THE STORM!

In the wake of flood devastation described as the worst in U.S. history, I join many others in expressing gratitude for the sacrificial work of so many right here in Pearland.  Specifically:

  • Our teachers, administrators and staff:  We re-opened our schools to our children on Tuesday (which was earlier than all surrounding districts). Believe it or not, we had a higher attendance rate for our employees than on the same post-Labor Day in 2016! As I visited with teachers and staff, their “can do”, sacrificial approach shines. If early tabulations are correct, about 10% of our staff were at least temporarily displaced during the storm. About 4% remain displaced now. 14% are themselves hosting displaced folks from Pearland and elsewhere. Yet, as I asked them about these things, the almost universal response was to focus instead on the needs of the children and their co-workers. Over the past two weeks, I’ve heard story after story of those who were flooded – and then went out to help their neighbors!
  • Our maintenance, custodial, bus drivers, and food service personnel: In the midst of the storm, those critical personnel were inside our schools cleaning, removing any water, transporting evacuees, and feeding city critical personnel workers and needy flood victims. Some of our people came from flooded homes and streets and yet were feeding/cleaning the massive areas of the PHS shelter on a daily basis.
  • Our local churches and civic organizations:  Everywhere one went, there were folks helping our families dig out, find food, etc.  Pearland’s faith in God and love for neighbor was made manifest.  For example, Crosspoint Church operated a shelter until the very hour when flood waters prevented access.  And now they will welcome Samaritan’s Purse to headquarter local work here.  Another example:  Crossroads Church set up a massive food and materials distribution voluntarily manned by a small army of their congregation.  They were in force after church on Sunday.  There are too many other churches and civic organizations (like the Lion’s Club, Neighborhood Center, etc.) to mention.
  • Local businesses: Again, the list is too long. For example, Grazia Restaurant delivered tons of food to those in shelters, to our police, and to others. As I write this, HEB is delivering a massive amount of supplies to our Board Room for distribution to students, families, and staff. Special thanks also goes to the “Pearland Recovery Assistance Team” organized by Buck Stevens and Rick Torrison.
  • Our students:  Hundreds of students volunteered in the midst of the storm.  They manned the shelter at Pearland High School.  They removed sheet rock and possessions from flooded houses.  They took care of pets displaced by the storm.  The list goes on and on.  I also appreciate the coaches and teachers who led them.
  • Our parents:  Countless numbers of parents contributed by manning our shelter (or at other locations), collecting clothes and food, removing sheet rock, and many other things.  This week, our combined PTAs operated their “swap shop” to hand out clothing to those in need.
  • Our city/county/government: Whole areas of Pearland avoided the worst because of years of planning with regard to roads, water detention areas, utilities, etc.  While no man made system can ever overcome the worst flooding in U.S. history, Pearland did better than the areas north, south, east, and west of us.  On top of that our first responders were everywhere.  When their original Recreation Center emergency location was compromised by flooding, the Pearland police set up operations in a part of our high school – and SLEPT there between shifts!  In turn, grateful people brought them food, supplies, and even underwear!  Later I had the opportunity to attend a city council meeting during this crisis.  Among others who spoke was our great City Manager Clay Pearson. As he described the work of others, he was overcome with emotion and thankfulness.
  • Pearland ISD Leaders:  There were many.  But I’d like to single out those who were just about everywhere every day during and after the storm.  They included Keith Ordeneaux (who both oversees our facilities and is a city council member), Larry Berger (Our Maintenance Director – AKA Captain America), Matt Cline (AKA Iron Man, who did a little of just about everything), Kim Hocott (our Executive Director of Communications), Raul Cruz (our Transportation Director) and Dorothy Simpson (Food Services Director).  We also witnessed our School Board members setting the example by manning our shelter, delivering food, etc.
  • What is the net result of all these relief efforts?    No one can adequately quantify what’s been done and what remains to be done.  But one key statistic relevant to school operations is this:  On our first day back (Tuesday, September 5) we had a student attendance rate of 97%.  This is slightly above the annual average attendance rate for our school district.  Amazing.  Uplifting.
  • I’ll share just one story that illustrates many things: Last Friday night, the number of evacuees in our PHS shelter began to dwindle as folks made their way home, or to relatives or elsewhere. At perhaps 7 p.m., a young woman approached the registration table. She was deaf and only able to communicate through typing messages on her phone. Mrs. Polly Breaux Gandy, a Pearland ISD parent, was manning the registration area. She began exchanging messages with the woman. It turned out she lived with two other disabled adults and two children. They were very hungry. The folks manning the food service area gave her a big plate and she devoured it in about 5 minutes. As she got up from the table, Mrs. Gandy noticed the woman winced and limped. After more text exchanges, she revealed she had hurt her leg. In turn, that prompted notification of the volunteer medical staff located a hallway away. They came to her with a wheelchair, took her to the medical area, and examined her at length, exchanging messages on a notepad. Meanwhile the volunteers in the food area piled up boxes of food and other items for placement in the woman’s car. Mrs. Gandy then followed the woman home and determined further needs. About an hour later, she reported the situation to another volunteer (Tanya Dawson – our Pearland ISD attorney – performing various duties night after night in the shelter). The next day, Tanya visited the house and delivered a mountain of more food. The children were particularly delighted – and all were most grateful. School personnel, parents, community members, volunteer medical staff, our school attorney, those who donated food/clothing/paper plates, etc. ALL contributed to what would have otherwise been a terrible situation for nearby flood victims. This is one of a thousand stories in Pearland, Texas.

I am filled with profound GRATITUDE to God and to those who acted in the midst of the storm – and in its wake thereafter. Truly, it is a blessing to live in Pearland!

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