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Rallying for relief: Woodbury organizations, businesses respond to Hurricane Harvey

State Rep. Kelly Fenton was among Woodbury residents and surrounding community members to donate pet supplies during a donation drive organized by Pet Evolution. Rian Thiele / Pet Evolution1 / 3
The evacuation and displacement of thousands of Houston-area residents after Hurricane Harvey prompted relief efforts from across the country. Businesses, organizations and Woodbury were among the contributors. Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson / U.S. Coast Guard2 / 3
Pet Evolution filled two trucks with pet supplies the Woodbury community donated to help Houston-area pets and shelter animals displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Rian Thiele/ Pet Evolution3 / 3

As Texans continue to assess the wreckage of the hurricane that ripped through the state's southeastern corner last week, Woodbury businesses, faith communities and organizations have offered their assistance.

Hurricane Harvey, which reached land Aug. 25, left at least 70 deaths in its wake, displacing and stranding thousands more.

The destruction prompted a swift response from Woodbury Lutheran Church, which raised about $30,000 in free-will donations the weekend of Sept. 3.

Tom Pfotenhauer, head pastor with the church, said his connections with other pastors in Houston will help ensure all of the funds will reach relief efforts as donors are warned to give cautiously.

Those connections, he said, will also help host teams of volunteers from the Woodbury community to help clean up the wreckage in the next couple of weeks.

The church is currently accepting applications for volunteers at bit.ly/2w40M3b.

"Right now, it would be mucking out houses, tearing down the stuff and hopefully getting into rebuilding," Pfotenhauer said. "Then we'll be exploring how to help some of the smaller communities. Houston's getting a lot of the press and attention, and we want to make sure these smaller communities aren't forgotten as well."

Adults able to help with physical labor are encouraged to volunteer, whether or not they are members of the church. During Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Pfotenhauer said the church was able to organize nearly 800 volunteers both within its congregation and the larger Woodbury community.

The church will call for a second round of volunteers in the future that will offer less physically-involved opportunities in Texas. People can also donate to the church's efforts at bit.ly/2wFsBRm.

For Rian Thiele with Pet Evolution, news of pets and shelter animals affected by the destruction served as a call to action.

The Woodbury pet grooming business sent off a truck loaded with about $2,500 in pet food, treats and medications Aug. 30, with a second truck departing Sept. 4.

The donations, Thiele said, flowed in with little prompting.

"We had no advertising before; cars were just flooding the parking lot," Thiele said. "We were in tears for how much the pet community contributed in four hours. The care and compassion — everyone's just kind of joining together for this cause. It's truly crazy amazing."

Pet Evolution is partnering with Minnesota dog rescue Coco's Heart and Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue in North Dakota to compile supplies and haul them to Texas.

Donations can still be made at the Pet Evolution store at 429 Commerce Drive.

Damage from the hurricane rendered thousands of homes unlivable and displaced tens of thousands of residents. The destruction will also likely cost realtors in the area several months of income.

Keller Williams Premier Realty in Woodbury was among the company's nationwide branches to participate in KW Cares, an effort to support the company's associates whose livelihoods Hurricanes Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which struck the southeastern coast Sunday.

"It's going to be months if not years of changes in their lives and their business they'll have to deal with," said Matthew Johnson, an agent with the Woodbury location. "People in the real estate community depend on closings to happen. It works its way up the food chain."

More than 2,000 Keller Williams agents collected donations of food, clothing, water, building supplies and money that they hauled to Texas in the organization's semi trucks.

During last year's major flooding in Louisiana, 500 KW Cares volunteers raised $1,000,000 in seven days to assist 150 families within the company.

KW Cares has so far helped more than 100 families in Texas clean up their homes.

Eagle Brook Church in Woodbury collected donations last week at their Woodbury campus and online that were donated to Samaritan's Purse, a non-profit that mobilized disaster cleanup effort in Houston after Harvey struck.

"This is a way to rise up, be generous with what God has entrusted us, and relieve the burden that our friends in the south are experiencing," Pastor John Strand said during a Sept. 3 sermon.

The church's website now prompts donors to give directly to Samaritan's Purse here: sampur.se/2werRSX

Culver's restaurants, including the Woodbury Drive location, will donate a percentage of sales from every menu item sold Sept. 12 to the United Way of Greater Houston.

A list of Better Business Bureau accredited charities contribution to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts is available at go.bbb.org/2xr3qlk.

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