LA GRANGE, TEXAS - After Hurricane Harvey hit, tons of people ran to help. They donated supplies and volunteered to clean up.
But now, as people have gone back to their jobs, and back to their busy lives, some flood victims worry they'll be forgotten.
Hundreds of homes in the La Grange area were ruined by the flood waters, some even saw water all the way up to their roof.
Now, the city is just beginning to wrap up the clean-up phase, and transition into what may be years of rebuilding.
While the flood waters are gone, the damage remains in La Grange.
Streets are still lined with pieces of homes and scattered memories.
Tina and Ricky Villanueva were one of the many homeowners forced to evacuate.
"We just left, got a few clothes, whatever, we never thought it would get to this high,” said Tina.
When they were allowed back in almost a week later, what was left wasn't their home -- it was devastation.
"She cried for a week,” said Ricky. “We tried to get the stuff we could out, but a lot of it was lost already."
They were forced to rip apart the home they lived in for years, down to studs.
"It's just been hard. The first day they let us in, we worked seven days from morning to night,” said Ricky.
It was hard work that they said was only possible with the help of volunteers.
"We could have never done it on our own, and we can't afford to hire nobody right now,” said Ricky. “We have people giving us clothes, food, water, stuff like that, it’s just going to be the rebuilding part is going to be, cost a lot, that’s the only thing about it is, and we can’t afford it right now.”
That's the same story for people all across town.
But volunteer organizer Joey Melton with GoFish Ministries said the number of volunteers in La Grange is dwindling.
"It seems that people have kind of forgotten that there's still a need here,” said Melton.
He said the first weekend after the floods, there were 900 volunteers.
This past weekend, there were 47.
As efforts switch from clean up to rebuilding, he said they need electricians, carpentry, HVAC technicians, and even some roofers.
"It's just going to have to be a more skilled labor force when we get back into the rebuilding and reconstruction,” said Kim Newton, the assistant main street and tourism manager.
He said the more volunteers, the quicker the rebuilding process will go.
"With volunteers, it's hard to tell if we just get an enormous amount of volunteers, and an abundance of material that we're blessed with, this thing could be done in six months,” said Melton.
But for now, he plans to coordinate volunteers for awhile.
"I'm expecting this to be about a year to two year recovery time,” said Melton.
But they worry that time will allow people to forget. Forget to volunteer, and forget to donate.
"It's going to be something that everybody's real excited to do it right now, because its fresh, but a year from now, we may not get as many donations,” said Joy Cameron with the Long Term Recovery Committee.
She said they created the group after the flooding.
"A lot of communities wait until there's a disaster to form a group, and unfortunately we did the same thing,” said Cameron. "We will help families start to rebuild, that is the whole jest of our group, building this community, rebuilding homes, helping families find other places to live."
She and her husband have donated the use of a building at 861 South Reynolds to collect and store donations.
"It was a blessing that it was vacant at the time all this happened,” said Cameron.
So far, she said they have tons of donations of diapers, water and clothes.
"We had a drive-thru set up, we had cars lined up out this road here, all the way around, and they would come through here,” said Cameron as she showed KVUE the donation center.
But now, she said they need things like lumber and sheet rock.
"We're going to need different things, than we have in the past,” said Cameron.
"They definitely could use your help,” said Newton.
Newton said there are still about 200 families displaced from their home.
"We are determined to keep these families who are not in their homes right now in our community,” said Newton.
She said many are allowed to stay in a hotel until the middle of October.
"We're trying to make sure people have a plan beyond that,” said Newton. "We don't have a plethora of just affordable houses.”
She anticipates a long recovery.
"It's just going to be a long term process, we're going to be at this you know for probably a couple of years,” said Newton.
But as time goes by, they worry their need for help will float out of people's minds.
"Don't forget about our community, we'll still take the help, as long as you guys are willing,” said Melton.
Willing to help people like the Villanueva's turn their house back into a home.
"We need the volunteers, we need volunteers," said Tina Villanueva. "All the volunteers, and everybody's been awesome, and just we do need help."
"Little things are a lot right now,” said Ricky Villanueva.
The couple said they hope to move back into their home by the end of the year.
“Trying to set our goal, I want to be here for Christmas, I’d like to be here,” said Ricky Villanueva.
“Just take it one day at a time, and start rebuilding back again, that’s what we want, that’s what we’re hoping for,” said Tina.
If you can’t donate time, or items for rebuilding, Newton also encourages people to remember their local economy.
"Our economy in La Grange, a lot of it depends on tourism, and we want everybody to know that we are still open for business here,” said Newton. "You coming to visit us, and coming to some of the events we have coming up or just coming for the day and going to our stores, and eating at our restaurants, helps our economy and it helps us to be able to help our families that were affected.”
And for those who live and work in La Grange, they continue to help their fellow neighbor.
"It's just really united the community even more if that's possible,” said Newton.
List of Resources:
-LGRelief.com or email LGDisasterrecoveryteam@gmail.com for monetary donations – you can specify Long Term Recovery Committee
-Email VolunteerCityofLG@gmail.com if you want to volunteer
-Facebook – La Grange Area Disaster Recovery Team
-Visitlagrangetx.com – A look at local festivals to visit
List of donations they need for the rebuild:
-Sheetrock that is 5/8 half inch
-Lumber 2x4, 2x6, 2x8
-Plywood that is half inch OSB
-Marine grade tongue and groove plywood
-Nails and screws
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