Over 20 members of the Nashville Predators front office staff have made the journey to Houston, Texas, to help rebuild a home that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Led by Predators Senior Vice President, General Counsel Heidi Bundren, a Houston native, the volunteers touched down in the Lone Star State on Wednesday and got to work.
Read below as they report on their journey.
After breakfast at the hotel, our group piled into two 15-passenger vans and headed to the Bear Creek Village neighborhood in Northwest Houston for our build.
We drove through a neighborhood with many homes that had been abandoned and condemned, with heaps of plywood, old carpet and miscellaneous damaged furnishings littering driveways and front lawns.
The build site of the two-day project is a home belonging to Miss Julia, an 83-year-old Hungarian woman who has lived in the house for almost 30 years. Before Habitat for Humanity found her in December through an application for their Appliance Assistance Relief Program, Miss Julia spent close to three months waiting for help. She'd wake up at 7 a.m. each morning and sit outside her home, waiting for anyone to come help her.
It eventually arrived, and tenfold for Miss Julia, in the form of new appliances and a steadfast crew of volunteers, construction site coordinators and church members, and we were honored to join the ranks of these generous people.
The daily tasks consisted mainly of painting the interior and exterior of the home and chipping away at old debris around the house. Wherever we were, Miss Julia was as well. She would scuttle behind construction workers sweeping up dust and always greeted you with a hug and a kiss, her head barely reaching the top of your shoulders.
The workday was broken up between a home-cooked and generously donated lunch by the Current Church of Katy, Texas, where our staff spent time getting to know the site workers and sift through Miss Julia's favorite belongings, including a workbook entitled "Learning the English Language" from Hungarian-American Correspondence School.
After a quick pit stop to Walmart to replace paint-stained pants and stock up on snacks, the group showered and changed to support our Nashville Predators at the local hockey haunt - Maple Leafs Pub - to watch the Preds shut out the Devils in New Jersey.
Video: Preds staff help with Hurricane Harvey relief
Waking up with stiff limbs from painting high ceilings and low baseboards, and hoarse throats from cheering on a Preds win, we rolled out of bed and filled up on breakfast before the day ahead of us.
Miss Julia and the crew were waiting for us as we pulled alongside the driveway, hot coffee and kolaches (a savory pastry filled with sausage and cheese) generously displaying on the meal table. A quick recap of the day before and a game plan for the rest of the morning and we were ready to roll - roll paint, that is. Nothing turns a house into a home better than a fresh coat of paint and we were determined to make sure Miss Julia had a space she was as proud to live in as she was before the hurricane.
Music blasting, our crew finished the second coat of interior and exterior paint all before lunch! Provided once again by Current Church of Katy, Texas, we refueled with tamales, fresh fruit, homemade chili and cookies. All that was left for us to do was to make sure we didn't miss any small details - a swift brush here, a light roll there - and to clean up the space before a group picture and our goodbyes.
Partnering alongside Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County was an unforgettable experience 21 of our Preds staff were able to take part in. With the support of the Nashville Predators Foundation, we were able to bring Smashville to Houston and meet an incredible woman along the way. We now head back to Nashville with a newfound perspective on the rebuild process and an appreciation for the large impact a small group of people can make.