When Cathryn Harris got up the morning after the December 26 tornado tore its way through Garland and Rowlett, she had already been awake for most of the night. “I couldnt stop thinking about my neighbors, less than two miles from where Im sitting comfortably sheltered, suddenly without a home, looking for each other, looking for their animals. Its dark, theres no power, and now the rain starts pouring down. On top of that, the next morning a cold front moves in. So now families and their pets are huddled under whats left of their homes, wet and freezing. I felt I had to do something.”
So what could they do? Money was tight and she had just donated what they could to Goodwill. There was not much left to give. “Then it clicked. We had bought a travel trailer a few years ago. My husband works for weeks at a time in the oil fields and uses it as a temporary home when hes gone. Were not using it right now, but there are a lot of people who sure could.”
That day, Cathryn put up a post on Facebook offering the use of their trailer to anyone who needed it. By the end of the day she had gotten over six thousand responses, and she set about trying to determine those with the most need. Many storm victims had other resources, such as insurance-paid hotel stays, relatives with spare rooms, or vacation cabins. That still left plenty of families living in condemned houses with no utilities, in their cars or makeshift shelters.
After such a huge response, “I was heartbroken that I didnt have more to offer than this one trailer.” She decided she had to get more people involved. Reasoning that there had to be hundreds of people like herself that had trailers just sitting unused most of the the time, it was a matter of communicating the need to them. In short order she had come up with a name – Heart Homes, and a Facebook page where people with trailers to share could connect with those in need. With the help of local attorney Lindsey Olson, who donated her services, she registered the organization as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt charity.
To date, Heart Homes has provided trailers for four families with a total of 11 people. There is still a waiting list of 10 families, so the need for help remains strong. If you have, or know of anyone who has a travel trailer going unused during the tornado recovery period, Heart Homes has started a Facebook page and a gofundme page to accept monetary contributions.
Cathryn Harris and Heart Homes serve as a perfect example of how local communities can come together quickly to assist those affected by disaster, natural or otherwise. More to the point, they are an example of the spirit of giving that runs strong in our community, making it such a great place to live.