Mobilizing Katrina Support
In 2005, HoustonPBS didn't have to look for outreach opportunities. With 250,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the Houston area, the station became a voice to a community in crisis.
"Calls came to us," said Outreach Manager Sarah White. "Instead of doing our jobs, staff were trying to find people homes...food. It was up-close and personal."
The station acted quickly. The September membership drive was indefinitely postponed. A station-wide task force identified needs and prioritized responses. New Orleans public station WYES set up temporary headquarters at HoustonPBS, which aired a six-part series about Louisiana history with locally produced contact information for services.
Food and clothing were collected at the station. With partner Houston Public Radio, portable radios were collected for shelter residents. With University of Houston, a phone bank was established to connect evacuees with lost loved-ones.
The task force envisioned a "community bulletin board" linking resources and volunteers with needs and organizations. HoustonPBS created Our Community Responds, a 10-hour telethon.
Two days before the telethon, Hurricane Rita formed and Houston was evacuated. Rita spared Houston, but devastated other viewing communities. The crisis--and the needs--had grown.
HoustonPBS rescheduled the telethon. Seventy-seven organizations appeared on-air, sharing needs and volunteer opportunities. Critical connections were made.
Now, after Katrina's first anniversary, HoustonPBS is still involved. They've partnered with the Mayor of Houston's office and the Harris County Judge's office to create the "Our Community Prepares" campaign. They continue to reach out to groups like Project Resiliency to deal with the lingering effects of the crisis within their community.