Their Lives Were Upended By Harvey, But Thanksgiving Goes On

Some southeast Texans will hold smaller celebrations than usual, and others will share a meal with neighbors who lost more than they did.

By Marissa CummingsNovember 23, 2017 10:00 am| ,

It’s Thanksgiving morning and if you’re like most people, that probably means a football game on television, a turkey in the oven and a gaggle of family members on the way. But for some Texans still displaced by Hurricane Harvey, Thanksgiving this year doesn’t feel, look, or even smell the same.

An hour east of Houston, tucked behind the busy highway is a large, well-kept neighborhood in Baytown, Texas. That’s where Jessica and David Vass live.

“I love holidays! I have decorations for every holiday,” Jessica Vass says. “We do it right. We’ve got all kinds of stuff. We decorate the yard, the door, the everything.”

But this year all those decorations are in storage because their house got flooded by Harvey, with up to a foot of water in some places. Right now, the entire first floor of their two-story home has freshly installed drywall panels, four feet high. The few miscellaneous items that weren’t put in storage sit on foldable chairs and tables throughout the kitchen and living room.

For Jessica Vass, that makes her normal Thanksgiving plans obsolete.

“The entire dining room is gone so there is no dining room table,” she says. “Thanksgiving will probably be the parade downtown and maybe Buck-ee’s.  I don’t know, we haven’t planned a meal. We don’t know.”

Vass says she realizes this holiday season will be different, and she’s determined to find a way to make it work.

“So I would be baking at this point, I would be baking preparing for the holidays,” she says. “That’s not happening. If I were to do a green bean casserole in my one casserole dish then I couldn’t do a sweet potato casserole. So I’m going to need to get some of those disposable tin things.”

And the Vass family says they realize their situation could have been worse and are thankful for what they do have.

Thirty-five miles northwest of Baytown is Kingwood. And for some people there the situation was worse. Water released from Lake Conroe rose to 14 feet in some places.

Chris Sarvadi lives in Kingwood. He says, people who didn’t think they were at risk got flooded.

“The holidays are going to be tough this year because we have a lot of people that were not in a floodplain and a lot of people didn’t have the flood insurance,” Sarvadi says.

Savardi wanted to help reduce stress for Kingwood residents by co-hosting a huge Thanksgiving dinner.

“We just want to have a nice community dinner together to give people a way to share their story, to really just open up.”

He says the more the merrier.

“The event is open to everyone,” he says. “We will not turn anyone away. We have plenty of food. We have one caterer, Noah’s Kitchen who is bringing 500-plus meals, and we have other donated food we will be serving as well.”

Further south of Kingwood, the Houston Food Bank is doing more this season to make sure people don’t go without a meal either.

“On a normal month we distribute 6 to 7 million pounds. Going into November it’s been about two times what we normal distribute when it comes to pounds,” says Amy Ragan with the food bank.

“We are definitely going to be distributing more holiday boxes to more clients who are going to need them for the holidays,”Ragan says.

On average, she says the Houston Food Bank gets help from 6,000 volunteers in a month but that has increased to 24,000 a month since the storm. Ragan says the season of giving began as soon as Harvey happened.