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Granite Staters bring relief from Derry to Houston

Union Leader Correspondent

September 13. 2017 11:55PM
Serge Michaud, right, and Charles Foote of Derry take a photo with volunteers from the Centro Cristiano Vida Y Restauracion in Houston. Michaud and Foote drove 30 hours from New Hampshire in a van filled with supplies to aid in the relief efforts in Texas following the devastation from Hurricane Harvey. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Derry resident Charles Foote documented the damage done last month by Hurricane Harvey in Houston after he and fellow Granite Stater Serge Michaud drove 30 hours to help provide donated items to those in need. (COURTESY)

DERRY — Derry’s Charles Foote humbly avoids questions about his spur-of-the-moment relief work in Houston following Hurricane Harvey; he just doesn’t want the attention.

Foote instead chose an under-the-radar approach, hoping to let his actions do the talking for him.

But there is an entire community on Coulson Street in Houston that is less interested in his hush-hush approach and thankful he swiftly morphed into a man of action.

“The better question is why not do this,” said Foote, now in his second year on the Derry Town Council, who modestly refers to himself as a dog trainer and a full-time dad.

“I had no excuses not to. I had the capability to do it, I had the means to do it (and) I had the opportunity to do it. With all the hate and the bigotry and everything else going on in the world right now, I think it was important to get down and represent not just Derry, but to go down as an American and do the right thing and help other human beings,” he said. “I was trying to do this under the radar, I didn’t want to make a big PR thing out of it … I wanted to go down, do it, bring supplies, come back and just go about my business.”

After seeing the devastation in Texas following the catastrophic hurricane last month, Foote and a friend set out in a rented vehicle on Sept. 1, roughly 24 hours after putting out a cryptic message on his social media pages seeking donations and anyone interested in an 1,800-mile road trip.

One of his friends, Serge Michaud with Salem-based Keller Williams Realty, privately messaged him back. The two tossed a pillow and a few blankets in a rented van and jam-packed it with diapers, first aid supplies, baby food and formula, clothing and other items listed as in high demand around Houston.

“It’s one of those things that when you get an opportunity that presents itself where you could go and help others and have a new experience, why not,” Michaud said.

Foote remained in contact with a friend in Spring, Texas, just outside of Houston. The two corresponded frequently as he and Michaud made their way south. She would feed the Granite Staters updates on where supplies were most needed.

After 30 hours of driving, Foote said all the routes began to run together, and the two sleep-deprived men made jokes about being unable to truly get lost “because we don’t know where we’re going to begin with.”

They did, however, end up at NRG Stadium, home to the Houston Texans and the starting point for most charitable activities in the city. Foote said they pulled in across the street from the stadium when they noticed a Red Cross truck on the road and immediately solicited the driver for directions to high-demand areas.

That led them to Centro Cristiano Vida Y Restauracion (Christian Center for Life and Restoration), located at 12338 Coulson St., with a congregation of about 100 people.

The church opened the Thursday following the storm to distribute supplies, but they were running dangerously low when a rented van with Ontario plates operated by two Granite Staters pulled into ints driveway.

Marcos Quiros, a youth pastor with the church, said they were overwhelmed with the love and kindness from their newfound friends in New Hampshire.

“It was quite an emotional moment. We were at that moment getting ready to close and when Charlie and Serge I was thinking they were coming to get something from the supplies we had, and they said ‘No, no, we actually brought a van full of stuff,’” Quiros said. “At that moment, we all lost it.”

As they unpacked supplies, tears rolled down the faces of volunteers at the church. Michaud said he stayed for a few days, giving out “goodie bags” with much-needed relief items and bottles of water.

“We walked some of the neighborhoods that were stricken and it was incredible to see what they’re going through,” Michaud said. “It makes you appreciate what you have here, that’s for sure.”

Foote agreed, saying the photos alone don’t do justice to the wreckage — the odors, the piles of debris, cars submerged underwater and the human emotion of damaged neighborhoods.

“The smell of the sewage. You’d be walking through some muck and some sludge, a lot of times it would be raw sewage. The smell of mold from everything being underwater,” he said. “It was just complete devastation … but in hindsight, I would do it 10 times over again. It was a great experience for a bad situation.”

Since returning from Houston, Foote and Michaud have stayed in touch with Quiros and others in the congregation. This was not just a relief trip, it sparked lifelong friendships.

“Now we’ve become family,” Quiros said. “I still get in touch with them by text, by phone calls, emails.”

But while they’re far away, Foote and others from New Hampshire are still promoting the needs of their friends in Houston.

“I did it less than a week; they’re living it. They’re the real heroes,” Foote said.

Those interested in offering assistance to the church may visit the following online registry:

A link is also available on Foote’s Facebook page.

Quiros said the needs right now are different than a few weeks ago. Children are heading back to school and they are in need of classroom supplies and certain clothing items, such as shoes.

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