Homer Glen REALTOR® Joyce Zelazik admits she’s still in awe of the community response to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts she helped organize a few weeks ago.
“It was just a beautiful community effort,” says Zelazik, who works for Coldwell Banker The Real Estate Group in Homer Glen.
After eight days of work, Zelazik and her brother, REALTOR® and trucking company owner Frank Klimala, had garnered enough support to fill a 53-foot long semi-trailer with bottled water, Gatorade, non-perishable food, bleach, cleaning supplies, diapers, toilet paper, towels, light blankets, pet food and toiletries.
“At the beginning, we posted on our Facebook page that we wanted to collect certain kinds of items to help the flood victims around Houston,” said Zelazik. “We didn’t feel like we needed any more volunteers (than the family, friends and colleagues who’d already committed to help). But during the final weekend, the people came and they came and they came. Some stayed all day long and volunteered to watch the trailer so nothing would happen to the contents. Some even came back to help the next day. It was very organic.”
How they made it happen
By far, organizing the effort was the most time-consuming, difficult and necessary part of the process, she says. Zelazik needed to determine what items were needed, find a safe place to collect them, a secure place to keep them and a reliable person or organization to receive them in Texas.
Klimala arranged for a trailer to be parked at the Homer Glen collection site and paid a driver to transport the donated items to Texas.
Through a mutual friend, Zelazik found a reliable contact in a Willis, Texas pastor who used to live in the Joliet area. The pastor found a warehouse to store the donations. Later, church volunteers drove smaller trucks to the warehouse and distributed the necessities to flood victims in smaller nearby towns where aid workers had not been yet.
Help comes from many directions
Homer Glen area businesses, including Coldwell Banker, provided donations and support. A Big R store guided local volunteers toward needed items that could be purchased in the store. One donor gave 75 five-gallon buckets full of cleaning supplies one day, then came back the next day with 90 more.
One volunteer, who worked for a company that manufactured backpacks, helped fill numerous backpacks with school supplies for children who’d be starting the school year under duress. Another woman drove from Wisconsin to pitch in after reading about the project on Facebook.
Real estate professionals from around the area joined in to help. Zelazik noted that she had nieces and nephews as young as six years old volunteer, and that a wide variety of people participated. Even after the project was complete, she was receiving text messages asking when the next one like it will begin.
Seeing so many different people come together to help flood victims far away renewed her faith in her fellow man. “I had the time of my life that weekend. It was hard work. It was hot, and it was sweaty. But it was good. I have never seen such a beautiful, spirited community effort.”