Remembering Harvey

BuildAid Thanks GHBA Members as we Remember Hurricane Harvey - August 25, 2017

One year ago this weekend, Harvey arrived, an unwanted visitor with little regard for humanity. A year later, after leaving behind billions of dollars in damaged property and loss of life, Houston and surrounding areas continue the recovery. BuildAid, a HomeAid and GHBA initiative formed with funding from the David Weekley Family Foundation just days after Harvey left the area, began the rebuild process. On this One-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, and every day of every week, we thank our GHBA members who in some cases have left other jobs, to work as a coalition to help restore homes and rebuild lives. This initiative would never have been possible without our GHBA members and leadership!

Meet the BuildAid Construction Team

The dedicated construction crew leading the recovery include Chris Yuko, director of BuildAid and builder partners, James Boone, BuildAid Construction Manager; David Weekley Homes (DWH) Builder Randall Rowlett; DWH Builder Neil Smolik; and Open Door Remodeling Builder Omar Guzman. Beginning in September, DWH Builder Alex Velasquez will be joining the team.

Read About James Boone - Manager of Construction for BuildAid Houston

James was the Special Projects Manager and Community Care Manager for the Houston Division of DWH.  When asked why he decided to take part in BuildAid's construction team he replied, “I feel we are vessels of God. He is using us to help his people and our communities.  I am just being obedient to his Will and being a servant.”

James shared what or who has impacted him the most as a part of the BuildAid team. “There are several people. From our homeowners, vendors, construction trades, GHBA, HomeAid, our BuildAid Team, and everyone assisting with the rebuild efforts. They have all played a part in positively impacting our community. Houston Strong!  Experiences with homeowners have also impacted me.”

“Hearing the homeowners recap their stories of survival and how the storm impacted them and their families, is completely humbling. Most were devastated and never experienced anything like it before. Some have used all of their resources and still have fallen short of a full recovery of their property. Others didn’t have extra resources before the storm. Both are so grateful for us showing up to help them get their lives back together. We have been called angels along with other selfless titles. I explain to them that it’s in our DNA to help others. We are here to get their normal back for them after the storm. We are doing just that. Most of the time we have been able to exceed their expectations.”

Read About Randall Rowlett - Special Projects Manager BuildAid Houston

Randy was a Lead Home Builder in Cane Island for DWH before becoming the Special Projects Manager for BuildAid. He assists homeowners with the material selection process, estimating and reconstruction of their home. Randy explained why he decided to play a role on the BuildAid team. “I have always enjoyed working on charitable projects through David Weekley.  When I was offered this opportunity to help people get their lives back to normal I was very excited and honored.”

“The BuildAid team is awesome,” he continued.  “The passion everyone has for helping people is our common thread and what makes us such a great team.  Hearing the stories from the homeowners, like they thought they were saying goodbye to their homes forever, or even hearing one couple say that they told the rescue boats to leave them because they couldn’t see how they could recover from something like this, made me realize how important our homes are in our lives.”

Read About Neil Smolik - Senior Builder for BuildAid Houston

Neil was a Senior Builder with DWH for the past 12 years.  When asked why he wanted to take part in BuildAid he replied, “For a long time, I have been wanting to do something to help people, so when this was offered to me I jumped on it.  It is exactly what I have been thinking of doing for a long time.”

Neil handles estimating for the repairs and manages the restoration process to completion.  He describes who and what has impacted him the most during his work with BuildAid.  “James Boone, with all he has on his plate, vetting the projects and overseeing the construction, James still keeps his focus on why we are here, to help the Harvey victims.  He tirelessly does everything possible to move the projects into construction and completion, thereby making the homeowners' dreams come true.”

“Working with the homeowners I have been able to experience what it feels like to lose almost everything. I can't even describe how rewarding it is to see the looks on their faces when we show up and actually do what we said we would do.  Knowing that some of them had bad experiences early-on, and then realizing they are putting their trust in us, are the reasons I am enjoying this project so much.”

Read About Omar Guzman - Builder Services for BuildAid Houston

Omar is the owner of Open Doors Remodeling and had been working for DWH as a subcontractor for 13 years. He immediately saw the opportunity to work with BuildAid using his experience and skill to help other families in desperate need. Omar prepares estimates and helps the homeowners choose from material selections and manages the reconstruction.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with the entire BuildAid team, but if I have to mention just one person I admire and appreciate the most, it would easily be James Boone.  He has made an impact on me for his professionalism and dedication to the homeowners.  There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the smiling faces of homeowners that one year ago, lost almost everything.”

Charles and Vilayphone Smith vs. Hurricane Harvey

A 4-foot wall of water surged from Cypress Creek down Gore Grass Court, just days after Hurricane Harvey had moved out of the area, forcing 85 year-old Korean Veteran Charles Smith and his wife Vilayphone to flee their 3200 sq. ft. home they had lived in over 20 years. They walked in muddy water for a half a mile through their neighborhood, where their daughter was waiting at Spring Stuebner Road.

It took only seconds to understand what was happening, but they feared it would be years before they could rebuild their home.

Read About the Smith's Story

Charles and Vilayphone Receive Assistance From FEMA

The Smith's eventually returned to find, like thousands of others, that 4 feet of water had destroyed their first floor. With no flood insurance, the Smith's first turned to FEMA for help. It took several months to finalize those funds. The Smith's received $28,000 to begin cleaning up and treating their home for mold. They covered the rest of the remediation and debris removal with their savings.

With over 100,000 homes damaged from the flood waters, programs and initiatives were being created to assist those homeowners needing assistance in rebuilding or restoring what remains. Just days after Harvey made landfall, HomeAid Houston, a 501 c 3 charity of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA), partnered with the David Weekley Family Foundation (DWFF), to form BuildAid Houston.

The Smith's Meet Construction Team from BUILDAID 
The Smith's realized they needed more help to rebuild. After learning about BuildAid from an article in the Houston Chronicle, they completed an application form on the BuildAid website. Once qualified, they were matched with a BuildAid builder partner from Chesmar Homes, one of several experienced builder members of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA). From there they worked directly with their builder to prepare their materials selection package.

It's been nearly a year that the Smith's home flooded like thousands of others. But their restoration process has begun and they anticipate, with the help of their builder they will be in their restored home within two months.

"I never thought at 85 years old, and 20 years of that in the Navy," said Charles, "I would be nearly homeless. But finding BuildAid and our build leader James Boone and Chesmar Homes, has changed the course of our lives. They have given me reason to look forward to turning 100!"

"Stories of survival and loss, resiliency and hope continue to emerge from the devastating effect of Hurricane Harvey, even a year later," said Chris Yuko, director of BuildAid. "The personal stories are different, the locations vary, but the life-altering impact of 51 inches of non-stop rainfall on the landscape and fabric of a community, remains a constant. We are proud to be able to help change the course of so many homeowner's lives through this valuable initiative."

* FEMA June 2018 Source: