Strangers become family after Harvey heroism

HOUSTON - When Houston Community College dismissed their employees early the Friday before Harvey hit Houston, Cynthia Avalos had no clue what she was in for.

“We have six dogs. If somebody comes in a boat, they're probably going to say 'you have to leave your dogs behind,' and we didn't want to hear that so that's kinda why we hesitated to leave the house,' Avalos explained.

By Monday, she had nearly a foot of water in her home that backs up to Cypress Creek.

“We need to get out, we need to get out because at some point we're not going to hear those boats anymore,” she recalled.

They loaded up a change of clothes, their six dogs, which included three brand new puppies, and flagged down a high water vehicle.

Across the neighborhood, Nicole Richert was finally heading out of her home after two days stuck inside.

“When I left the house that day I did not intend to go to the gas station and pick people up, I just wanted to see the damage,” Richert said.

But Nicole received a call, telling her to look for a friend of a friend stuck at the gas station, but what she saw there tugged at her heart.

“We unloaded them, got them comfortable, found them a room and all that kind of stuff and then we went back to the gas station because we were not going to leave all those people,” Richert explained.

“There's already all these people there, cramped under this little roof, and I'm thinking who's going to take a family with six dogs?” worried Avalos.

“She walked over to the car, she came over to me and said 'Before we load the car, are you OK with six dogs? Are you OK with six dogs? I said I'm OK with helping people, go get 'em’” answered Richert.

This Children's pastor at Fairfield Baptist Church made multiple trips until there were 16-18 people staying under her roof.

“Having met everybody there was comforting, you knew you weren't alone. You knew you weren't the only one going through it,” recalled Avalos.

Over the following days, the complete strangers would become lifelong friends.

“We call each other 'our Harvey family',” said Richert.

Avalos is especially grateful for the impact the experience will have on her 15-year-old son.

“That it's not a fairy tale, that people will actually do good things to strangers, that people like that do exist, and I know that he's going to be one of those people,” Avalos said.

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