16 flood survivors nestle in church staffer's home
CYPRESS, Texas (BP) -- All's good, Nicole Richert kept saying as she and her husband were "hanging out" and "relaxing" with 16 strangers and six dogs in their Houston-area home days after Hurricane Harvey's deluge and flooding.
"When we found her we realized ... that all these other people had nowhere to go," she recounted. A bus was transporting evacuees to a local school that had not yet opened to provide shelter.
"We said, 'Who needs a home?' That was it."
Richert serves as children's minister at Fairfield Baptist Church in Cypress, Texas, where first responders have been offered a respite area. Some neighborhoods experienced six to eight feet of flooding in houses, and churches in the area are coordinating how to meet ongoing needs.
"We're just trying to see what to do and where to go," said Jim Daniel, pastor of Fairfield Baptist, which took a hit from Hurricane Ike in 2008. He wasn't surprised by the response of the Richert family in meeting needs of evacuees.
The collection of house guests included older couples and young families, all grateful for help. The Richerts served up chili and cornbread for dinner then found places for them to sleep throughout the house. They even made room for one family's dogs, including a dachshund that had just given birth to puppies.
"This is one of those experiences where you spend time with people you don't normally take the time to enjoy," Richert said, describing two-hour dinners of good conversation.
Relatives have picked up the couple they initially had been asked to find, and one family is waiting for the water to recede before returning home. While FEMA offered lodging at a hotel for one of the families, they accepted their host's invitation to remain along with the fourth family who will stay until their carpet is cleaned up from the flooding.
Teaching lessons about being a good neighbor is a part of Nicole Richert's ministry to children, so making that application came naturally to her family.
"I hadn't really even processed it or thought through it," she admitted. "You see a need? You meet a need."