By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
HOUSTON — Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep President Kelby Woodard was anxiously awaiting word from his counterpart at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston on the school’s post-hurricane needs when a message finally appeared on Aug. 31.
When he read it, Woodard’s heart sank.
While Hurricane Harvey’s wrath largely spared Cristo Rey Jesuit’s school building, 30 Cristo Rey families had lost their homes.
Paul Posoli, the school’s president, was asking Woodard for food packets that would need to be delivered to Houston that Saturday.
“Immediately we thought there was no way we could turn that around in time,” Woodard said.
Were it not for the intervention of Catholic Charities of Dallas and the North Texas Food Bank, they might not have.
But after a phone call with Dave Woodyard, CEO of Catholic Charities Dallas, Woodard was supplied with 180 boxes of food packs from the North Texas Food Bank to take to Houston. Each pack is capable of feeding one person for an entire month.
When Posoli received the news, he became emotional after receiving Woodard’s text that he would be delivering on his promise to help.
“I texted him back and said, ‘I got your text and I’m crying here,’” Posoli said. “He said ‘I’m feeling the same way.’ I’m incredibly grateful to all the Cristo Rey supporters in Dallas.”
Volunteers willing to deliver the food packs to Houston began to pour in. At 4 a.m. on Sept. 2, two Cristo Rey Dallas vans, 180 food packets, and 15 volunteers made their way to Houston.
“Most of us had plans that did not include going to Houston a week after the historic Harvey storm, but it was pretty easy for us to find anybody in the Cristo Rey Dallas community who wanted to help any way they could,” Woodard said.
By the time they arrived at Cristo Rey Jesuit at just after 8 o’clock in the morning, the school’s gymnasium had already become a makeshift donation center filled with clothes, shoes, towels, cleaning supplies and even pet food. Woodard and his team unloaded their food packs and added to the stock.
Over 100 volunteers, mostly within the Cristo Rey Jesuit community, began to arrive to help organize and distribute donations. Among them was Cristo Rey Jesuit junior Andrea Cruz, who helped raise $25,000 for the school by way of a GoFundMe page she created.
“It really broke me to know these families got affected and these are my friends,” Cruz said. “I never thought anything horrible like this would happen.”
Freshman theology teacher Molly O’Brien was one of the volunteers who made the trip to Houston, where she lived for two years before joining Cristo Rey Dallas. She said she was moved to help after seeing images of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction on her television screen.
“It was really hard seeing places I had driven to, seeing neighborhoods where I knew families that attended my old school,” O’Brien said. “I just wanted to get down here and help these people in any way that I could.”
Amid the heartbreak, devastation and loss, Posoli said he faced more questions than answers as he tried to help his families find a place to live. But there was one question he had an answer to: Where was God in all this?
“I see God in the work of our volunteers,” Posoli said. “It strengthens the faith of our families as they come together and help each other and really trusting that God has a plan for them. I think, ultimately, we’ll see a lot of good in this.”