NFIB Member Darrin Forse brings neighbors together in Hurricane Harvey recovery effort in the Greater Houston area.
In the heart of Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, NFIB Member Darrin Forse witnessed neighbors helping neighbors and small businesses helping small businesses. Owner of family-run trucking company Force Transportation, Forse lives in coastal League City, Texas, and operates his business from 20 miles away in Pasadena, both within the Greater Houston area affected by Hurricane Harvey and the flooding that followed.
As the flooding began to rise following the storm, Forse and several of his League City neighbors began communicating over Facebook about what residents needed and ways to help one another. The local junior high school, Victory Lakes Intermediate School, was being turned into a temporary shelter. Forse and his neighbors were asked to bring tiles to patch up the school in order to secure the shelter. At this point, there was “12 to 15 feet of water in certain areas,” Forse said. As the flooding continued, the junior high school became a full-time shelter for residents. So, Forse and some neighbors started a grassroots social media campaign, Victory Lakes Intermediate Temporary Shelter, where neighbors could reunite with missing loved ones, sign up for shifts at the shelter, ask for medical help or supplies, offer food and material donations, and update the community on curfews or other urgent information, among other things.
Forse also reached out on other local social media pages for help. “Next thing I know, we had 20 volunteers coming up with clothing, food, bedding,” said Forse. Local businesses, like Walmart, Domino’s Pizza, Cici’s, Malay Malay Malaysian Restaurant, H-E-B, and others, started to donate food and supplies to the shelter too. Forse and neighbors were able to collect enough food to feed between 400 to 500 people from Saturday August 26 to Wednesday August 30, said Forse. The temporary shelter closed that Wednesday, once officials were able to find a permanent shelter for residents.
“We took a couple into our house ourselves,” shared Forse. “A couple with a baby who didn’t have anywhere to go. Our neighbors did the same and took in couples.”
Once Forse was able to get his business back up and running, he brought supplies in trucks down to other severely damaged areas around Houston. Forse had several drivers who were affected by the flooding, so continuing to help them has been one of his biggest concerns.
Now that recovery efforts are in full swing, Forse said his community has been trying to figure out if their damaged businesses and homes are salvageable. Forse thinks business recovery will take two or three years in his area. “Many people didn’t have flood insurance unfortunately,” he said. “The ones that didn’t are mom and pop businesses and are going to struggle getting back up and going. Most of them had between 8 to 12 feet of water, so nothing survived from food to furniture.”
But community businesses in the affected areas are stepping up to help one another. Forse said that restaurants were donating old appliances and materials to other restaurants in need, and that this type of giving is what will save small business. “I would contact your local NFIB office and get out the information, put it on social media, ask for anything to get up and going,” Forse suggested to other local small businesses affected by the hurricane and flooding. For those looking to help, Forse asks that you donate an extra desk or computer to a small business in need. It may be an old appliance, but it could be what keeps someone in business.
“Texans helping Texans,” said Forse. “It doesn’t matter your color, what party affiliation you are, rich or poor, it was everyone being one. As rough as it was, that was the best part. Now in recovery, you’re seeing the same.”