By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
What was meant to be a real estate conference dramatically changed into a relief effort for a pair of Oshawa residents after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas on Aug. 25.
Chris Davies, the owner and broker with Keller Williams Energy in Oshawa and Whitby, along with broker and team leader Christina Arcangioli were set to travel to Austin, TX for the Keller Williams company-wide convention from Sept. 11 to 15, but those plans changed after news of the devastation in the southern United States began to surface.
The Category 4 storm struck the coast near Rockport, TX with winds as strong as 130 mph. It’s estimated that more than 80 people were killed in the storm and that 27,000 homes were destroyed.
“They couldn’t guarantee that the convention centre in Austin wouldn’t be expropriated for housing evacuees and we said, okay, we need to shift our mindset on this,” Arcangioli says. “Rather than cancelling our arrangements that were made to attend the convention, we redirected them and decided that it was an opportunity to help those devastated by the storm at the highest level we could. The next thing I knew, we were part of a well-oiled relief machine helping those in Houston.”
The relief effort saw approximately 4,000 agents from the Keller Williams international team take part in helping those impacted by the storm.
After making the decision to take part, Arcangioli says they travelled to Austin, arriving 13 days after the storm, where it was a nearly three hour drive to Houston. At the start, it was was hard to tell that anything happened at all, that was, until the bus pulled into the city.
“Everything looked normal, it was beautiful, it was stunning, saw no devastation whatsoever, (then we) turned into the subdivision and boom…people’s contents of their homes as high as stop signs, the streets were just lined with debris,” Arcangioli says.
The work was endless, and Arcangioli says she took part in a number of relief efforts, including cleaning out people’s homes as well as working with the Baptist Church to coordinate further relief efforts.
“It was an amazing opportunity to go and be a part of it and I felt compelled to be down there,” she says.
Reports following Harvey, while tragic, have also recorded continued acts of humanitarianism and a lack of criminal activity. Arcangioli also says that even while dealing with their own relief efforts, those in Houston were also preparing and doing what they could to send resources to Florida following reports of the approach of Hurricane Irma at the time.
“These guys aren’t even 100 per cent yet and they’re worried, (saying) we’re good enough, now let’s go help someone else.”
It was an experience that made Arcangioli very grateful for what she has here at home.
“I think I’m a fairly grateful person anyway, but the gratitude and the love that I have for what I came home to was amplified for sure,” she says. “I feel very strong and confident about myself. I went in to thing and did things I’d never done before.”