Like millions of people around the state of Texas, Southwest Homes owner Jason LaFollette watched in horror for days as fellow Texans experienced the terror of Hurricane Harvey. From the early hours after landfall that pelted the Port Aransas area with furious winds and heavy rain, to the slow-rising waters from relentless rains in the Houston area, LaFollette said that he felt helpless. But that changed on Monday.
After receiving more than 20 inches of rain the Bryan-College Station area over the weekend, LaFollette knew that his home construction sites would be too wet to get much done, so he began looking for ways to help those who were hit the hardest by the storm.
“I had it in my head Sunday night that we were going to go to Houston and help, I just didn’t know which boat we were going to take or where we were going to go,” LaFollette said.
Then his friend Steve Livingston called, saying that he had friends in the Humble area in Northeast Houston who needed help getting out of their homes.
“I told him I could have the boat hooked up in 15 minutes,” LaFollette said, “Let’s go.”
LaFollette and his oldest son, Caleb, joined Livingston and his son and headed south in an effort to help their friends in Humble. However they hit impassable roads in Northwest Houston, keeping them from making it their original destination in Humble, but police officers nearby gave them a little more direction.
“We couldn’t get any further in than Spring-Cypress, where we ran into some officers who told us that they really needed to get more help to Katy,” he said. “He gave us directions for roads that were clear, but by the time we headed that way, that route was impassable as well, which was very discouraging.”
But the father-son duos then spotted other volunteers in boats nearby, who told them that there were many people trapped in a nearby neighborhood who could use the help.
“There were these two guys with their boats and we just joined in with them and just ferried people from their homes to this drop point on higher ground all day,” LaFollette said.
The only issue was that there was no one to receive the flood victims once LaFollette and the other volunteers got them out of the neighborhood, but once neighbors who were not impacted by the floods caught wind of the volunteers in boats, that changed as well.
“We came back from another run through the neighborhood and there were tons of people who were fortunate enough to not be flooded and they were shuttling people wherever they needed to go,” LaFollette said. “They were bringing people towels and dry clothes, and making them warm bowls of chili, and taking them back to their homes to shelter them or took them to places to meet up with family or other shelters.
“It was Texans at their very best.”
Unbeknownst to LaFollette, his wife, Lisa, partnered with Steve’s wife and their kids to mobilize a donation center back in College Station, where they collected more than 200 cases of water, diapers and other needed supplies and countless sandbags for residents to use to protect their homes from the rising waters. Then his youngest two sons drove the supplies down to Houston with his brother, where they assisted with more water rescues.
“As a dad I couldn’t have been prouder of my kids,” LaFollette said. “Caleb captained the little boat that we were on the entire day and he was fearless, even as we went through some pretty strong currents. Then Josh and Daniel came down later with my brother and the supplies they’d gathered back in College Station. Everyone was eager to get down there and help people, and they were up early this morning hoping we were going to get to go back down there today.”
Lafollete said that he had to return to College Station to work for the day on Tuesday, but had coordinated with several of the emergency personnel he met in Houston and may return on Wednesday if his efforts are still needed.
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