Stroudsburg-based Amy Phillips walked into the large, former furniture store in Austin last week. She was met with the cries of thousands of barking dogs and cowering cats, some sick and all disoriented. They were the lost survivors of Hurricane Harvey.
Phillips, along with four of her colleges from Keller Williams Real Estate in Stroudsburg, were on a relief mission. What began as an annual conference turned into a massive effort from 3,837 of the company’s associates from 17 different countries.
The flooding in Houston forced officials to ship the animals up north to areas unaffected by the storm. The pets were segregated into groups; those who were sick or had not passed medical clearance, the healthy, and those who were electronically chipped and expected to be claimed by its owners.
Phillips cleaned animal crates, walked the dogs, and helped organize the generous donations of dog food, cat food, and pet toys.
Keller Williams initially planned a Mega Week in Austin, where associates from all over the country met to share ideas on growing their businesses. When the space it was to use for its meetings had been turned into a donation collection center, the company decided to change Mega Camp into Mega Relief.
Five associates from the Stroudsburg area went to help.
Alex Camaerei, also of Keller Williams in Stroudsburg, joined what he likened to a mission. The crew gathered at the Austin convention center, and was bused to Houston area for five days to help “de-muck” houses. He was assigned to a home with a crew of about 14 others.
As his bus pulled up to the home, Camaerei saw a pile of personal belongings that filled up the entire front yard.
Their task was clean out the resident’s house. They stripped the home of damaged materials, using crowbars to tear down moldy walls and wood molding, removing sheetrock, insulation and anything else that was destroyed by the rising water. It reached four feet in the area of the home where he worked.
“It was shocking,” Camaerei said. ”’I’ve never been part of anything like that. I’ve never seen hurricane damage like that before. It took a while for it to sink in. My thought was to try to put myself into their shoes. All their memories, everything they worked for was just lost.”
The Stroudsburg associates were focused in Katy, Texas. It was a far cry from the relative tranquility of the Poconos.
“I saw an opportunity to go down, to be a physical, emotional and spiritual support for them,” Camaerei said. “I could have sat back and say oh well or go do something about it.”
Keller Williams Realtors Amy Galligan, and her husband Jim also made the trek to Houston.
“You see the destruction of what water can do very quickly to someone’s life,” she said. “It’s hard when you have to move out someone’s pictures and ask them if you could throw it out.”
What they saw was the strength of the human spirit.
“The homeowners were smiling, smiling from the help they were seeing,” she said. “These people had lost their belongings, but they were still shaking hands and saying thank you for the help and thankful that they were alive.”
Source: Pocono Record | http://www.poconorecord.com/news/20170918/stroudsburg-realtors-join-hurricane-relief-effort