KATY MAGAZINE PEOPLE OF THE YEAR 2017 HONOREE
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, one young woman stepped up to help Katy families recover by starting the Harvey Housing Recovery Project, logging over 3,500 volunteer hours since late August.
KATY MAGAZINE | December 2017 By Ginny Ebben
Opening photo by Kim Schaeffer
It is rare to meet a 30-year-old person who has made and will continue to make such a positive impact on one community. Kristina Bozoarth is a force that is literally raising the Katy community up by rebuilding homes. After seeing the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Bozoarth started the Harvey Housing Recovery (HHR) project to help homeowners rebuild at a fraction of the cost. In less than two months HHR has saved homeowners an estimated $80,000 by using volunteers instead of contract laborers and has logged 3,500 volunteer hours.
Help for the neediest families
In a partnership with Fort Bend Recovers, cases are assigned to HHR for assistance. These cases are low income, elderly, disabled, veterans, or families with small children.
To demonstrate the power behind Bozoarth’s mission, the first turnkey rebuild house is expected to be complete by the beginning of December, three months post-Hurricane Harvey. “I founded HHR not even thinking about fundraising and asking others for support," says Bozoarth. "I just knew there was work to be done, and I was able to help. But now I see the families we’ve been able to assist – the relief, joy, and gratitude on their faces when trained and equipped volunteers show up with systems and know-how to help put their lives back together – and I know we’re in this for the long haul.”
Community training programs
Harvey Housing Recovery signs up volunteers to do the labor and loans supplies and tools for rebuilding. Training programs run each week, giving anyone the opportunity to learn how to put up dry wall, the steps to properly lay tile, and lessons on how to use the different power tools. Bozoarth insists on safety and high-quality craftsmanship. HHR will train anyone. The organization’s philosophy is: anyone they train will end up pouring that knowledge and sweat equity back into the community in some shape or form. Sometimes there are three training sessions in a day in order to meet the needs of those who want to learn a new skill. Bozoarth stays very busy.
To help offset volunteers’ own costs and shelter needs, Bozoarth partnered with Saint Bernard Parish which has a connection to AmeriCorps. If selected, HHR volunteers will receive a monthly stipend and an education award from AmeriCorps. Borzoarth also found housing for 80 local and global volunteers through Grace Fellowship Church in Katy.
“What impressed me the most about Kristina was how she saw a need and acted on it. She jumped right in and decided to help as many people as she could,” says Erika Hornsey, Executive Director of Houston Tool Bank in Houston . The Houston Tool Bank loans tools out to 501C-3 organizations and volunteer groups who are working to better and to help a community. Bozoarth made such an impression on Hornsey that the tool bank waived $200,000 in fees in order to help HHR get up and running. Now HHR can provide tools for the 720 Canyon Gate residents as they work to rebuild their homes. These tools, available at no cost to the homeowners, can be checked out like library book at a town library, saving homeowners even more money.
A servant's heart
Bozoarth graduated from Southern Illinois University with an Accounting degree. After becoming a CPA, she worked 75 hour weeks for four years. Realizing she wanted more time with her young daughter, she moved from a for-profit to a non-profit company. That is where she discovered her love for community-oriented organizations. Kristina combined her business acumen with her servant’s heart and knew at that moment her career path would be in serving others’ needs.
In 2010, her family moved to Katy with a new baby in tow. She was traveling across the country each week for work during this time, which pulled at her heart-strings. Though she loved her job she missed family time and became a stay-at-home parent for two years.
A mission that was meant to be
Two weeks before Harvey hit, she interviewed for a controller position with an organization whose mission was to serve the poor and under insured. It was a perfect fit except, just as the waters from Harvey receded, Bozoarth received a rejection letter from that company in the mail. The timing was serendipitous. It allowed her to channel her passion for helping others and Harvey Housing Recovery was born. “Katy is a strong and resilient community, but Harvey was a devastating financial blow to all those who were impacted. Financially stable homeowners create financially stable communities and while it is important to see the Katy area housing market recover, helping these homeowners rebuild is the right thing to do. “
To help the Harvey Housing Recovery project, please visit http://harveyhousingrecovery.org