Christmas came early for one Kashmere Gardens resident. 47-year-old Clayton Jackson woke up at the crack of dawn back in August to be a part of our TODAY Show appearance for the 1-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. Little did he know there would be a big surprise unveiled on live television.
“We all thought we were going to be interviewed and then Mattress Mack from Gallery Furniture came out and blessed us with a $10,000 furniture and $3,600 accessories shopping spree,” Clayton said. “Everyone there got really excited.”
BakerRipley partnered with the United Way of Greater Houston on the surprise furniture donation as part of a partnering agency volunteer project. In true pay-it-forward fashion, Clayton surprised his Aunt by sharing his gift.
“I’m giving my Aunt Patricia the $3,600 accessories gift card so she can experience some joy and make her home cozy too!”
There hasn’t been much joy since Harvey damaged his beloved childhood neighborhood.
“Within two hours, water was at my door. I had two feet of water in my home before evacuating,” Clayton said. “I was overwhelmed watching rescue crews take the elderly out on floating mattresses to safety.”
A few days later, he went back to work at the Northside Postal Unit where he’s been a postal worker for over 20 years.
“The mail stopped for several days after this storm,” Clayton said. “The post office took on water and all the mail had been floating in the water inside the building.”
His job delivering mail became more challenging thanks to the debris littering the front lawns of the residents Clayton served; but he eventually found good fortune along his route.
“I walk door-to-door every day as a postal employee. I delivered informational flyers and exchanged recovery information with the residents. The whole neighborhood flooded, so everyone needed help. Eventually, I got information about the BakerRipley disaster recovery services offered from a client on my mail route.”
Six months after Harvey hit, Clayton visited the Kashmere Gardens Multi-Service Center to do his intake with BakerRipley. There he got assigned to BakerRipley Disaster Case Manager Arlene Lassin who helped him with temporary housing, mortgage assistance and furniture through our Unmet Needs program as he started his long road to recovery.
“He came to us frustrated because FEMA denied his claim and he had tried to get help from other agencies,” Arlene said. “As a case manager, I find this scenario typical for many that we assist. I help my neighbors work beyond the frustration by explaining the process and giving a realistic length of time for recovery in order to build trust in this new relationship and ultimately a successful recovery.”
Clayton’s applications were approved and four months later repairs started on his home, which included demolition, mold remediation, installing insulation and drywall, framing and trim work, painting, plumbing repairs and installation of a new heating and air conditioning unit. He also received Salvation Army Assistance thanks to Arlene’s assistance.
“Arlene provided help, the direction and care – I couldn’t have done it without her,” Clayton said.
“We finished the restoration work at the end of August, spending almost $28,000 dollars. Even with the job completed, the home still needs work and won’t be 100-percent restored,” BakerRipley Home Restoration Program Director Sommer Harrison said. “This is a common thread woven through the tapestry of the long-term recovery process. Often times, residents have to be connected to multiple agencies, like BakerRipley, to complete repairs to their homes.”
In October, BakerRipley began the process to connect Clayton to BuildAid, another disaster recovery agency, to help complete the finishing touches such as flooring and trim work. The BuildAid claim is pending based on a walk through and then the final stage of his recovery can begin.
“Clayton is a good person, a hard worker and I think the world of him,” Arlene said. “He’s also a good neighbor; helping his aunt and other neighbors whenever he can. In fact, he referred five of his neighbors to me and I’ve been helping them recover as well!”