As Lauren and Mackenzie Multari watched the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in eastern Texas, they knew they couldn’t stand by idly.
So, the creators of Lala and Mimi’s Pajama Project made a decision—they had to help.
Now seventh graders at Reynolds Middle School, the Multaris have been aiding children in need since they were in Kindergarten. And though they mostly have focused on donating pajamas to people in Mercer County the last seven years, the twins knew they had the ability to expand their scope.
A few phone calls later, they wound up connected with Bear Creek Elementary School in Houston, which had hundreds of families and dozens of staff members displaced by the storm. The sisters pledged to donate 748 pairs of pajamas to Bear Creek Elementary, one for every student. It is part of their effort to send at least 1,000 pairs of pajamas to children in Houston.
Hurricane Harvey brought torrential rains to Texas in late August, with much of the Houston area receiving nearly three feet of precipitation. Flooding was widespread, and the waters overwhelmed reservoirs in the area. The Army Corps of Engineers, fearing worse flooding, began releasing water from the reservoirs.
Bear Creek, a subdivision of Houston, sits in a floodplain near one reservoir’s controlled release path. Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, with many buildings receiving five feet of floodwater. Adding to the distress in the area is the fact this is not the first time the community will have to rebuild. A storm in April 2016 damaged much of the area. Another flood in 2008 did the same.
But, for now, Bear Creek focuses on bouncing back from Harvey. Lorena Zurtuche, principal of Bear Creek Elementary School, said many of the roads in the area were still inaccessible 10 days after the hurricane hit, covered with rubbish and water. Nineteen of her staff members have been displaced from their homes. The start of school was delayed a week, and just a few days before the new start date, the school staff had been unable to reach more than 200 families. Most of them are in shelters throughout the area.
The school itself is the highest point in the neighborhood, nearly 10 feet above street level. Water didn’t rise up that high, so the school and its grounds were used as a launching point for rescue boats, as a staging area for the National Guard, as a makeshift parking lot for residents who didn’t want the floods to ruin their cars. Zurtuche said staff wasn’t cleared to use the building until Sept. 7, and children will be transferred to a nearby high school for their first day of school Sept. 11. The hurricane damaged lift pumps and a waste water treatment plant, leaving the elementary school building under water usage restrictions.
But, of course, returning to even a sliver of normalcy is a nearly impossible task when many of the children have lost their homes and nearly all their possessions.
More than 1,600 miles away in Hamilton, the Multaris saw images of the storm, and figured they had to help. A mutual friend connected the Multaris with Zurtuche, who was floored by the girls’ offer to provide a pair of pajamas for every student at Bear Creek Elementary.
“We’re feeling the love all the way from New Jersey,” Zurtuche said. “I was taken aback by their generosity. We truly do appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”
Once they have completed the donation to Bear Creek Elementary, the Multaris also want to connect with charities serving underprivileged children in Houston, as well as a sports franchise like the Houston Dash women’s soccer team, to distribute more families in need.