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Houston Mayor Thanks Indo-Americans for Their Hurricane Harvey Relief

Amit and Arpita Bhandari present a check of $250,000 from BioUrja to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (center) toward the Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief. In total, the Indo-American community has made a contribution of $1.5 million toward Hurricane Harvey relief. Photo: Bijay Dixit

Amit and Arpita Bhandari present a check of $250,000 from BioUrja to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (center) toward the Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief. In total, the Indo-American community has made a contribution of $1.5 million toward Hurricane Harvey relief. Photo: Bijay Dixit

By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON: More than 150 members of the Indo-American community took a brief pause from their continual relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to remember those fellow Houstonians that were lost, and honor the courageous acts of ordinary people helping others, at a reception at the home of Amit and Arpita Bhandari in West Houston.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who joined the event, remarked that “The contributions of the Indo-American community did not just start with Hurricane Harvey. Indo-Americans have been contributing to this city for a long, long time. The Indo-American community is vital to the city and helps make Houston the great city that it is.”

The BioUrja Group, a global energy and agricultural commodities trading company owned by the Bhandaris, contributed $250,000 to the Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief at the event. In total, the Indo-American community has contributed over $1.5 million toward Hurricane Harvey relief.

Upon receiving the check, Mayor Turner stated: “I want to thank Indo-Americans for what you have done prior to Hurricane Harvey. I want to thank you for what you are doing now, and I want to thank you for what you will be doing to help rebuild this great city. We will rebuild, we will be stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for next time around.”

Before the check presentation, Bhandari screened a video, which described the devastation in Houston as Hurricane Harvey hovered over the city and dumped more than 56 inches of water in the city and its suburbs. The video also graphically described how Indo-American organizations assisted first responders in evacuations and helped victims with food, shelter and medical care.

“The hurricane took the lives of 80 Houstonians and left thousands homeless,” recalled Bhandari. “Harvey may have put our lives in disarray, but Houstonians are strong. We were not able to control Harvey’s winds, but we can control the direction of our sails. Houston First is our mantra and Houston Strong is our way.”

“Indo-American volunteers helped rescue 700 Houstonians by boats, trucks, or by foot,” said Bhandari. “Indo-Americans have also contributed $1.5 million to various charitable organizations associated with Hurricane Harvey relief. More than 35,000 hot meals have been distributed to the hungry. More than ten temporary medical care facilities have been set up to provide urgent care.

Additionally, more than 2,000 volunteers contributed 45,000 hours of service. Two emergency call centers were set up, 300 families sheltered, and 450 flooded homes were cleared out.”

Specific Indo-American organizations Bhandari recognized included, “Sewa International, BAPS Swami Narayan Temple, Bohra community, several others Hindu temples, all the Sikh gurudwaras and mosques. Numerous businesses and restaurants helped in providing free meals.”

India’s Consul General to Houston Dr. Anupam Ray echoed Mayor Turner’s sentiments in thanking the Indo-American community. “Your generosity makes India proud,” said Dr. Ray. “A community is great if it rises above its suffering. Through your contributions toward Hurricane Harvey relief, you’ve demonstrated that as a community, you’ve risen above your sufferings.”

Another presentation made to Mayor Turner was a newly developed mobile app titled DisasterConnect to help victims and donors make direct contacts with each other to streamline relief efforts. The app was created by ChaiOne, a Houston-based developer of mobile apps, under the direction of its CEO, Gaurav Khandelwal.

In closing, Bhandari urged the Indo-American community to make additional donations to Hurricane Harvey relief and to add the designation “Diaspora” to ease tracking the total community donations.

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