When Hurricane Harvey hit, devastating communities across theTexas coast, Keller Williams pivoted and transformed its annual Mega Camptraining event in Austin into Mega Relief. It sent hundreds of agents to helpde-muck flooded homes and volunteer in shelters in Sealy, Texas.
AnnaSherman and her son Jared, 18, were sleeping when water started rising in theBrazos River. “We got a phone call from a neighbor to get up and get out,” shesays. The creek near her home in Sealy, Texas, had already spilled a foot and ahalf of water onto the road. Ultimately, it would rise several more feet. “Wegrabbed what we could put in a backpack, and we took off as fast as we could.”
Twoweeks later, Sherman stands in her front yard surrounded by Keller Williamsassociates from across the country. They’re pulling out sheetrock, clearingaway debris and helping disinfect her home so she can rebuild. She’s one ofdozens of Sealy residents Keller Williams has helped this past week. Instead ofworkshopping at the company’s weeklong Mega Camp event, agents have spread outacross Austin and affected communities to volunteer. In Sealy, volunteers wentto work de-mucking houses.
AfterHurricane Harvey hit the United States, devastating communities across theTexas coast, Keller Williams’ nonprofit, KW Cares, partnered with The SalvationArmy to send supplies. But it wasn’t enough; the company wanted to do more. Andso, Keller Williams’ leadership pivoted their second largest event of the yearand diverted agents who were slated to attend Mega Camp to locations like Sealyfor a Mega Relief event instead.
“We’reso blessed to have the help and the assistance that is so dearly needed,” saysSherman, who’s now living in a camper in front of her home. “It’s definitelytough, because you lose everything. It turns everything upside down.” Her voicewavers. “But we didn’t lose our lives, and we got our dogs.” She looks aroundat the volunteers. “The feeling of helplessness you get when things like thishappen, it’s finally starting to go away.”
PeterRogers, Michelle Ellis and Tim Beverlin all traveled from the Keller WilliamsBryn Mawr market center in Pennsylvania to help. “This explains our culturewithout any words,” says Ellis, who has been with the company for less than ayear. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come out here and help likethis.”
Sealy,a city of about 6,000 that sits 50 miles west of Houston, was one of thehardest-hit areas by Hurricane Harvey. And worse, Sealy was just starting torecover from a massive flood in 2016 when many homes took in water up to theirroofs. Sealy was also healing from a rare microburst in May that destroyed manyhomes and businesses.
WhenKeller Williams volunteers arrived, waterlogged chairs, refrigerators, familyphotos and mattresses lined the curbs.
“Peopleare devastated,” says Rusty Griffin, a lead pastor at Christian City Fellowshipin Sealy. Griffin has helped coordinate relief efforts in Sealy, especially inthe Lazy River area, a secluded spot that’s often overlooked in times ofcrisis. “They were trying to rebuild their lives, and now they’re going throughthis again. Without Keller Williams [the help they’re getting] wouldn’t havebeen possible.”
AbbeyWood from Keller Williams Raleigh wasn’t originally signed up to attend MegaCamp, but she signed on after it transformed into a week of service. “It’s anamazing thing,” she says. “I’ve never worked for a company where everybody cancome together like this, and everyone values the same things.”
Fromsouthern Maryland, Danny Martin and his team were on their way to Florida with atrailer and supplies to help Hurricane Irma victims, when they received wordthat the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would likely not let themin. “So we regeared,” he says, heading instead to Sealy. “Our team’s vision isto revolutionize real estate, to impact the community and to change lives,” hesays, a mission well-suited to their Sealy trip.
Forvolunteers, the devastation and stories of loss across Sealy were shocking. Onecouple was hit with the death of their new baby and a flooded home within days.Associates, however, were humbled and inspired by Sealy’s resolve and theirlove of community.
OneSealy resident, Joyce Galyen, has lived there for nearly 40 years. She raisedher children in her home, which took on four feet of water. “All my things aregone,” she says. This was the third time her home has flooded. She’s not surewhere to go from here, whether she’ll rebuild or sell. In the meantime, though,she’s happy to have Keller Williams in town. “We’re getting the support that weneed,” she says.