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Dear Vacations To Go Customer,
I apologize in advance to my readers who subscribed to this newsletter
for travel news and deals only. I will get back to that next week.
Today, I'd like to cover what is happening here in Houston, in the
aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
I wrote earlier that we believed that all 800 Vacations To Go employees
were safe and I can confirm now that all escaped injury.
We know of 64 coworkers who have sustained serious flooding to their
homes and another 33 who were evacuated from their neighborhoods and who
have not been able to return to assess the damage. Some have lost every
material thing that they owned--house, cars, clothes, furniture,
And while parts of this huge city are returning to normal, some areas
are still underwater. Several of our employees are high and dry in their
homes but surrounded by floodwaters that prevent them from leaving their
The water is actually rising along some bayous and reservoirs and
continuing to threaten new areas as authorities try to prevent dams from
Hurricane Harvey is now the largest "rain event" in U.S. history, with a
death toll of at least 47 people. There are tragedies yet to unfold as
the water recedes.
In four days, total rainfall in Houston exceeded 43 inches. Nearly 52
inches fell on the small town of Cedar Bayou, just east of Houston, the
all-time record rainfall for the continental United States.
At least 17,000 Houstonians are housed in shelters and a much, much
larger number of displaced people are staying with friends or family.
There are so many volunteers arriving to work in these shelters that
many are being turned away.
An estimated 100,000 homes and 500,000 cars have been damaged. The
official total of 13,000-plus rescues is dwarfed by the actual total
that includes rescues by private citizens.
I have seen people carried to safety in the arms of police and
firefighters and other first responders. I have seen them floated to
safety on strangers' kayaks, canoes, airboats and fishing boats.
Some of these boats were towed to Houston by good Samaritans from
throughout Texas and surrounding states. Three dozen members of Cajun
Coast Search and Rescue--the so-called Cajun Navy--rolled into town from
Louisiana at the height of the storm and risked their own lives to save
We thank our courageous neighbors from Louisiana and everyone else who
rose to the occasion at their personal risk and expense. They can never
be adequately repaid.
We are extremely fortunate that our headquarters suffered only minor
water damage and never lost power. Our phones were restored Wednesday
night. With power and air conditioning, we are able to serve breakfast,
lunch and dinner to every employee who can make it in.
Today, Vacations To Go is committing $1 million to the shelter and
recovery operations underway in Houston. We are dividing that amount
equally among six long-established, local, charitable organizations that
are heavily engaged in the support and recovery of our community.
Some of my readers have asked where they could send donations of money
or goods. There are many possibilities, but here are the six
organizations that Vacations To Go is financially supporting during this
The Houston Food Bank is the nation's largest food bank,
distributing more than 79 million meals last year through hunger relief
charities in 18 counties. It is working with partner agencies to ensure
that food continues to be provided to those most in need, and also to
those who will struggle to rebuild their lives after Hurricane
Late in the night of Tuesday, August 29, BakerRipley opened the
city's largest shelter at Houston's NRG Stadium, preparing for up to
10,000 evacuees forced out of their homes by flooding. In collaboration
with other agencies, BakerRipley takes over after the efforts of initial
emergency responders to provide long-term disaster relief.
Since 1907, Star of Hope Mission has been dedicated to helping
homeless men, women and children through programs that focus on
education, employment, spiritual growth and other foundations.
Second Baptist Church is one of the nation's largest churches,
with six campuses in the Houston area. It is helping to restore homes
damaged by flooding. Teams of volunteers, including Vacations To Go
employees, are providing supplies, cleaning out flooded homes, tearing
out wet carpet and walls and more to begin the restoration process.
Memorial Assistance Ministries ensures that families in financial
crisis have the means to meet basic needs. This can range from providing
assistance with rent and utility bills and access to medical services to
job coaching and financial education. During disasters like Hurricane
Harvey, it responds to those who need rehousing, replacement furniture,
financial assistance, trauma counseling and much more.
Founded in 1924, the Houston SPCA is the city's oldest and
largest animal protection organization. It aids more than 50,000 animals
a year, providing shelter, rescue, rehabilitation, adoption and other
services. Staff and volunteers are working to help pets displaced by
Vacations To Go employees who escaped serious damage from Harvey are
housing displaced friends and family, helping with cleanup and repair
and volunteering in churches and shelters. People who evacuated their
houses without anything need everything, so our employees are donating
and collecting food, clothes, water, toiletries, disposable diapers,
blankets and sheets, toys and games at our Houston office (5851 San
Felipe Street, Suite 500, Houston, TX 77057) for delivery to one of the
shelters in the city. Feel free to ship anything here that you want
delivered to a shelter and we'll make sure it gets there.
Finally, I want to sincerely thank all of you who so kindly sent words
of encouragement after my last newsletter, not only to me but to the
Vacations To Go travel consultants who have helped you over the years.
It's been a long and emotional week and that meant a lot to all of
Across this city today, people are ripping up wet carpet, tearing out
sheetrock, helping their neighbors and going back to work.
Our recovery is underway.
Chairman & CEO
Vacations To Go