From his small Texas town southeast of San Antonio, Jeremy Schmidt watched news coverage of Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods that took lives, destroyed homes and left survivors reeling from a monster storm that wouldn’t leave. A 32-year-old collector of cards and autographs, Schmidt wasn’t in the direct path of the storm, but like many Americans, he felt compelled to do something to help.
“I grew up going to the Texas coast on family vacations and continue do so every year,” he said. “Though we don’t live there it is a part of us. I knew I needed to go help after seeing the pictures of the damage.”
Schmidt packed a chainsaw and some shovels, hopped in his truck early last Saturday and left his home in Lavernia, bound for Aransas Pass, a town of about 9,000 on the shore of Redfish Bay. A volunteer muster station had been set up at a local church with the Texas Conservation Corps leading the cleanup effort. While flooding in the area wasn’t as bad as it was in and around Houston, winds of over 100 miles per hour had left a trail of destruction.
Schmidt and a group of volunteers went to the home of a couple who had chosen to ride out the storm in their late 1970s model mobile home.
“The wife showed us where the windows were blown out and said she was throwing anything she could in front of the windows in an attempt to keep the wind out,” Schmidt told Sports Collectors Daily. “It took about 20 volunteers and five saws two hours to clear enough space for them to have access to their home garage and driveway.
“The guy had hurt his shoulder after a fall in the debris the day before said he survived a liver transplant and this storm and said that he was going to live full throttle from here on out.”
That job complete, Schmidt grabbed a quick lunch and helped clean up two more properties before work was stopped for the day. Curfews were still in effect and volunteers had to leave the area. He then drove about 20 minutes to Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi where the Houston Astros’ AA team was back in action and raising money for hurricane relief.
Schmidt was one of many volunteers, some local and some from hundreds of miles away who have come to the area to help.
“Driving around was emotional at first because of the damage,” he said. “Everything was damaged in some way. As the day went on I became numb to the damage and then filled with state pride as my focus was shifted from the damage to the outpouring of support. Every parking lot had volunteers giving out supplies or free meals. Barbeque pits going everywhere. Seven semi trailers full of donations at the Dollar General giving out supplies. Neighbors taking (in) neighbors.”
The damage estimate from Hurricane Harvey stands at between $150 million and $180 million and the majority of those whose homes were damaged by flooding aren’t covered by insurance. Volunteers and fundraising will be vital to what’s going to be a long period of recovery.
“Harvey is going to be a demarcation line for much of Texas same as Katrina is for Louisiana and Mississippi,” Schmidt said. “Houston is going to have the focus of most because of population but the small coastal towns are going to continue needing help.”
Toward that end, Schmidt has pledged more support by matching $500 in donations. He’s currently at $315 and thanks to fellow collector Ivan Lovgren, Schmidt is giving away a prize to one of his donors in a random drawing.
— Jeremy’s Autographs (@Jeremy_IP_TTM) August 30, 2017
“I’m glad I did it and would like to go back down again if I can. I wanted to help some fellow Texans feel the seemingly impossible task of putting their life back together was a little less impossible.”