Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty
One VOADV employee did everything she could to keep her clients safe during Hurricane Ida – now the shelter needs community support
Estelle Haskins always knew she wanted to help others as a career. When she saw that Agape House was hiring, and learned that her mother previously worked at the shelter for single adults and families, it felt like it was meant to be. However, no matter how strong her connection to the shelter, nothing could have prepared her for one overnight shift just four months into her position when Hurricane Ida came barreling through.
Estelle started at Agape in May 2021 as a Program Assistant. She is responsible for client orientation and assisting with the day-to-day tasks of running a shelter – duties that she has gone above and beyond with since day one.
“I like to buy soup and noodles for clients to make sure our pantry is always stocked,” says Estelle. “I also want to be a friendly face clients feel comfortable talking to.”
Estelle is undoubtedly passionate about her work. However, there was no training manual for what to do when she was on overnight duty as the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit our area and Agape’s location in Somerset County experienced historic flooding.
“I got the tornado warning alert an hour into my shift. I was there by myself so I started to come up with a plan for if something were to happen. I knew you should go into the basement if there is a tornado so I talked to all of the clients and made sure they knew what to do if I told them to go.”
At the time, Estelle was responsible for the safety of over 20 clients – two of whom were eight months pregnant. While she was confident in her plan, the situation rapidly changed and Estelle continued to think on her feet.
“The storm and flooding were continuing to get worse so I checked the basement and saw that there was water,” says Estelle. “Now I’m having to come up with plan B. If a tornado comes, how am I going to keep everyone safe?”
Luckily, the tornado warning passed but the basement continued to fill with water. By morning, Estelle knew that the shelter needed to be evacuated and began to ensure all client contact numbers and information were updated. After helping oversee the transportation of clients to a disaster shelter at a local school for the night, Estelle went back to Agape House to be there in case anyone arrived needing help. Finally, after over 24 hours of work, Estelle headed home to deal with the flooding in her own house.
“I slept for a couple hours and was back the next morning to help clients get placed in other shelters and hotels. Once we knew everyone had a place to go, it was time to think about the damage to Agape.”
While the shelter escaped heavy damage, the flooding resulted in the loss of the facility’s entire stock of supplies. In order to reopen, Agape House is relying on community support and donations. View their most needed items here.
Estelle’s dedication to her clients is commendable and her humility is admirable as she is solely focused on gathering the resources most needed by the shelter to replace what was lost in the flooding.
“I was shocked at myself that night but I was just doing what needed to be done. These people needed help and many of them have told me they only have Agape House. I can’t wait to be fully reopened and back to providing services.”
The single adult section of Agape House has now reopened for clients to return. The family section is still undergoing repairs and is expected to reopen soon.
For more information on how to support Agape House by donating items or monetarily, please visit https://www.voadv.org/give.