Weathering the storm like family

Published 8:26 am Saturday, October 28, 2017

By Kelsey Hammon


Orangefield Independent School District coach and teacher T.J. Reed wanted to create a place where residents could find all the most relevant information post Hurricane Harvey. To do so, he established a Facebook page, where they could see everything from road closures to food and water pickups to available volunteers that could lend a hand.

“It was just a site, where people could go check in and look through things,” Reed said. “People posted information and decide to share things amongst the community.”

The page attracted almost 500 followers, who collaborated and shared information with each other through the posts. Reed dubbed the page “Operation OFam.”

“OFam in Orangefield is just something we use as a term for the school district and the kids actually came up with it a few years ago,” Reed said. “It means Orangefield family and they turned it into a hashtag deal.”

Reed thought the name would help to capture people’s attention and that it would also serve as a reminder of how those in the community helped one another out, just like family.

In Reed’s neighborhood in Orangefield, most of the homes took on more than two feet of water during the storm. Since losing his home, Reed has been staying with friends, until he can get back on his feet. Since he couldn’t do much about his own situation, he opted to help others in need.

“I think it was just over a week before I could get back into my home,” Reed said. “It was easy for me to help others, since I couldn’t help myself at the time. I was extremely active on the page [Operation OFam].”

Reed started the page a few days after the storm made landfall and encouraged residents to post any helpful information that they might come across.

“[The community] was really receptive,” Reed said. “It allowed people to know what the water level looked like and they could post something on there and check.”

One very important aspect was being able to post which roads were passable. Reed said residents had mostly resorted to boating up and down the streets in the first few days after the storm. The information on the page all came from area residents and allowed it to be shared quickly to those who needed it most.

Reed has worked for the school district for 12 years and normally teaches a team leadership class for seventh grade students. But with schedule changes this semester, due to the storm, he is spending this semester helping with inclusion classes for special education students and lending a hand in the classroom wherever needed. He is also continuing to coach high school football and basketball.

Across the Orangefield Independent School District, many students’ families also lost their homes and subsequently everything they own.

Additionally, two of the school campuses also took on water. As a result, elementary students are now housed in the Orangefield Junior High building and junior high students were eventually moved to Orangefield High School. It’s meant that schedules for students and regular space has had to undergo some alterations. Reed said he is unware of how long it will take to get the school’s up and running again.

“The students have been so resilient,” Reed said.

As life begins to return to normal, Reed said he has spent less time updating the page. Still, he encouraged Orangefield residents who might need assistance to utilize the page. The page can be found at: