Storm Victim Finds Help, and Purpose, at a Houston Food Bank

In Houston, having a car is like having a subway pass in Manhattan: It is difficult to get around efficiently without one. So Ms. Edmundson has also been unable to get to her job. Her husband relies on a colleague to pick him up to bring him to his job at an auto upholsterer. A relative drives Ron’nyia to school, where she is enrolled in a gifted and talented program.

Though the losses have hit them hard, the one thing that Ms. Edmundson has not had to worry about was feeding her family. Since arriving at a friend’s house in the North Forest neighborhood amid the flooding, she has been visiting Launchpoint, a community development corporation and distribution hub of the Houston Food Bank. That food bank is one of four in Texas that shared a $100,000 grant from The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund to Feeding America, a national organization that supports local pantries.

“We’re still pretty much at full-bore,” said Robin Cadle, the president of the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent in Victoria, Tex., another recipient. Ms. Cadle said that after the hurricane, the number of families that her organization assists each month in the 11-county region increased to 55,000 from 20,000. One of the greatest areas of need is the backpack program, in which schools send children home on Fridays with two breakfasts and two lunches to last the weekend.

At Launchpoint — where Ms. Edmundson picks up boxes of food including ravioli, peanut butter, chicken, crackers and fresh pineapples and broccoli — organizers estimate the center has handed out food to 400 to 800 people a day in the disadvantaged northeast corner of Houston since the storm.

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“It was amazing to be able to come here for several days and just get the food itself,” she said. Three days after picking up that first box of donations, Ms. Edmundson began volunteering at Launchpoint, shifting seamlessly into manager mode. She organized a warehouse and has been there most days since.

“She’s out-volunteered anybody in this organization,” said Jackie Mayhorn, who, with her husband, Ivory, runs Launchpoint, which serves the community of about 150,000 residents.

Sitting in a Launchpoint office, surrounded by desks with neatly arranged piles of donated clothes, Ms. Edmundson said this month, “Coming to the center, helping, giving back to the community, keeping my mind busy is keeping me going.”

She continued, “If I’m moving and I’m busy and I’m helping, it takes my mind off everything that happened.”

She still cries recalling the 12-hour odyssey that began when the family waded into the floodwaters as the rain continued to pour down and help did not come. The spiders that swarmed Ron’nyia when she fell off a pool float into the water. The snakes that they felt around their ankles. The cold. The wet. Being turned away at a local church. Wading to her friend’s house in the dark with water chest high. She wakes with night sweats.

She tries not think about details. The $10,000 she put down on the Suburban and the $5,000 in payments she had made. The $7,700 owed on the car. She worries she will not be able to afford a reliable car with the $5,000 her insurance has offered her. She worries the $5,000 will be whittled away on other transportation costs — for the bus or a rental car.

Ms. Edmundson had renter’s insurance, but could afford a policy that covered only $8,000 in household goods. She estimates the family lost more than $25,000 worth of belongings.

She tries to remain positive. On Oct. 22, she will draw a picture of a cake for Ron’nyia’s seventh birthday, and let her pretend to blow out the candles. Shaterra’s sweet 16, on Nov. 2, has been postponed indefinitely.

Last week, Ms. Edmundson finally visited the house where they can no longer live because of the damp, moldy conditions. Filled with raw sewage during the flood, it was a ruin.

Yet on a kitchen sill, a science experiment that Ms. Edmundson had started with her daughters shortly before the storm showed signs of life. It was an avocado seed suspended by toothpicks in a cup of water. Ms. Edmundson peered in the cup. The seed had sprouted.

“I know God is blessing me,” Ms. Edmundson said. “Even though we are staying with someone else, and we’re without, I know my blessings are still in the making. And when he’s ready for them to pour down, they’ll pour down.”

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