Cedar Park woman helps rescue Harvey victims from afar

Annie Hardy says social media has helped in efforts to save families trapped in flooded areas

Annie Hardy, at right (KXAN Photo)
Annie Hardy, at right (KXAN Photo)

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Annie Hardy lives in Cedar Park, but she’s not letting that stop her from helping people who live in some of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey’s storm. Since Sunday, she’s spent hours coordinating help in flooded cities using only her phone, her computer and her connections in the coastal area.

Hardy was raised in Dickinson, Texas, 30 miles south of Houston. As the flooding began Sunday, she says her Facebook feed was inundated with heartbreaking posts and cries for help.

“On the rooftop with my three sons waiting for rescue. Lord, please be with me and my sons,” said a post Hardy read out loud. “That’s what I woke up to.”

She says she immediately jumped into action that morning.

“How can you just look at that and say, ‘Wow, good luck. Good luck, I hope you get rescued?” she asked.

Hardy made calls to first responders for friends who had posted where they were online. She passed Coast Guard phone numbers along to people who needed them. She even made calls and found pharmacies open for those in desperate need of their medications.

“I had somebody who messaged me who said, ‘I have a family member in Dickinson. They don’t know how to get out. Are the roads clear?’ And I said, ‘Let me check,'” Hardy recalled, adding that she was able to find a safe route for that person to leave the city.

For those able to leave Dickinson and surrounding areas, Hardy has been compiling a list of volunteers in Austin willing to open their homes to evacuees.

“Dickinson is my heart, and so is the Austin area, so is Cedar Park, where I live,” she said. “Having connections in Dickinson and connections in Austin and merging the two and having that come to fruition was truly miraculous.”

She watched her hard work pay off Monday night when she connected one coastal family with an old friend in Austin.

“How could you not?” asked Kristen Shafer, who thanks to Hardy, took a family of four into her home. “How could you see this going on and not have that response to it?”

Shafer is a certified special education teacher. Hardy knew she’d be a great host when she heard a family with a son who has autism was looking for a place to stay. Shafer said she was able to help the 8-year-old boy and his family through the chaos of evacuating.

Hardy says as more people are able to leave Dickinson and need temporary shelters, she expects to help make many more connections with families in need and people like Shafer.

“I’m in for the long haul,” Hardy said. “I’m going to continue working with my community in Dickinson and my community in Austin to foster a sustained, coordinated effort to try to pour into those people that we love so much and that are suffering so terribly right now.”

Hardy says she already has a list of nearly 25 people willing to serve as hosts to Harvey refugees from San Antonio all the way up to Dallas. She says she expects that list to keep growing.

In the meantime, she’s encouraging people who’d like to donate to Harvey relief efforts in Dickinson to do so through Dickinson Independent School District’s Education Foundation. The school district says it will give 100 percent of proceeds straight to students whose families have been impacted by the storm.

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