Atec in the Cajun Navy

Caroline Bennitt People & Community

Hurricane Harvey leaves a wake of destruction behind, but also leaves a city and state united together to rebuild. Stories have emerged of everyday people doing extraordinary things to help their communities and friends. The Louisiana volunteer group, coined the “Cajun Navy” set out by the hundreds in boats rescuing people from their homes in Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur. Anyone with a boat was welcome to join them and the group used a walkie talkie app, Zello, to organize the search and rescue.

Atec’s Mel Hebert and son Mark, set out with a group from Dallas to prepare food for first responders and firemen. Originally from Louisiana, Mark learned to cook from his mother Maria, a great Cajun cook, who first taught him to make a fried egg. His love for cooking began there and has since led him to start a catering business, Hebert’s Krazy Cajun Cookin’. He and buddies Sonny Chambers, Patrick Johnson, and Alvin Nnabue brought a trailer full of supplies and food that was distributed around Houston and Beaumont. Over the course of 4 days they prepared, hundreds of hotdogs, brisket tacos and ribs. “Let me tell you the man can cook!” said one fireman. The Houston Fire Department and first responders were very appreciative. It is among the many stories of people coming together to help.

Doug Barnes, a native Texan, flew down from D.C. to help rescue people by boat. He couldn’t watch what was happening on the news anymore. In under 12 hours he jumped on a flight, landed in Dallas and set out for Houston with boat and supplies in tow. “I can tell you firsthand the devastation and suffering is real, but to see the people from all over the US come to Texas’ rescue is amazing,” said Barnes. He helped coordinate the evacuation of a nursing home with 122 people (102 moved in wheel chairs, 15 in beds and 5 in beds that were on advanced medical devices that required generators to keep them alive). It took 50+ volunteer boats and hundreds of volunteers to coordinate that rescue. “If you don’t think one person can make a difference in someone’s life, I just saw proof that it can,” continued Barnes.

Atec started a donation corner that quickly turned into our atrium. “The donations and support from our employees was amazing,” said Terasa Donnelly. We were blessed to remain dry, but Atec wanted to give back to our community and employees that were affected by flooding. Atec’s Board Member, Emily Pataki, drove in from Williamson County to donate items for Hurricane Harvey Flood Relief. “We are here to help Houston and the Fort Bend County,” stated Pataki, who later linked up with Mel Hebert at one of the fire stations.

We thank all the first responders and volunteers that so selflessly helped Houston survive Hurricane Harvey and historic flooding. Houston and Texas remain strong!