Donations for Harvey victims are filling Boston City Hall

The “Help for Houston” drive at Boston City Hall continues through Thursday. Officials are asking for diapers, baby formula, nonperishable food, toiletries, clothing, shoes, and other items.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
The “Help for Houston” drive at Boston City Hall continues through Thursday. Officials are asking for diapers, baby formula, nonperishable food, toiletries, clothing, shoes, and other items.

Hurricane Harvey reminds Ashley Seybold, 36, of Hurricane Katrina all over again.

The way the floodwaters are rising across Houston. The urgency of rescuers and families fleeing. The footage of devastation on every TV channel.

And the “shotgun love.”


Seybold learned about the concept of shotgun love when she volunteered after Katrina with Boston Cares in partnership with Hands On New Orleans nearly 12 years ago. It refers to the immediate connection people on the ground felt — the reciprocity, community, and support.

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“You show them love,” said Seybold, a North End resident, “and they give it to you right back.”

She can’t go to Texas in person, so on Tuesday Seybold showed up at Boston City Hall with goods that the victims of Hurricane Harvey desperately need. Work boots. Linen clothing. Others dropped off sneakers, baby wipes, towels.

Boston City Hall was buzzing with stories like this Tuesday morning, as soon as people discovered the city is sponsoring a “Help for Houston” drive. Many walked in off the streets with shoes, clothing, tampons, containers of baby formula. City officials said they will continue collecting donations through Thursday, Aug. 31, at multiple locations including the Bolling Building in Roxbury, all Boston Centers for Youth & Families and its Roxbury headquarters, and on the third and fifth floors of Boston City Hall.

The goal is to ship all of the donations to Texas on Friday.


Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has been in contact with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, which is how the city got a sense of the most urgent needs. Among them: baby formula, toiletries, nonperishable foods, blankets, new clothing, and, of course, diapers.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Texas. So many are struggling during this challenging time. As we have done in other emergencies and which has been done for us, Boston will step up and help through the darkest hours,” Walsh said in a statement. “I’ve made it clear to the mayor of Houston that Boston is here for them. Let’s come together as a city, contribute in any way we can, and show Houston that they have Boston’s full support.”

“It’s pretty moving, the fact that Bostonians are responding in such a positive way,” the mayor said Tuesday afternoon.

Other cities and towns including Fairhaven, Burlington, Framingham, Revere, Medford, and Salem, as well as the Archdiocese of Boston and several local companies, have been in touch with the city to make donations, officials said.

One man delivered 200 boxes of T-shirts.


Maureen McDermott’s best friend recently moved to Texas for work. Then the woman’s family had to be evacuated because of flooding. McDermott, an Arlington resident, has struggled to watch the news but is communicating with her friend — the mother of 7-year-old twin boys and a 4-month-old — via text.

“I brought diapers and formula,” McDermott said at City Hall on Tuesday. “I’m sure there are other people like her that can benefit.”

When Roslindale resident Kathryn Gallagher, 76, saw a rescued child in Texas on television wrapped in plastic to avoid the rain, she thought to herself, “God. Let me do something better.”

On Tuesday, Gallagher walked into City Hall with blankets and a bright yellow rain coat.

“The thought of not helping was not an option,” Gallagher said.

Every donation had a story attached; every donor, a reason for paying it forward.

Seybold knows this is just the beginning. The help will need to continue for a long time.

She returned to New Orleans many times to volunteer. She built a playground in a FEMA trailer park and spoke to kids who lost everything. It was constant, that shotgun love.

“It was the most profound experience of my life,” Seybold said. “If I could get on a plane right now, I would.”

BOSTON, MA - 8/29/2017:L-R Alisha Olsen from Florida and Janet Olsen from Alabama use carts to donate clothing for Texas victims. Janet's father died a month ago so she brought his cothing from his residence in the North End to city hall. Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that the City of Boston is sponsoring a 'Help for Houston' Drive starting Tuesday, August 29th through Thursday, August 31st and asks residents to contribute items to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas - sites: City Hall (3rd Floor Lobby & 5th Floor Mayor's Office Lobby) 1010 Massachusetts Ave (5th Floor) Bolling Building, 2300 Washington St., Roxbury (1st Floor Lobby) 26 Court Street (1st Floor Lobby) Boston Centers for Youth and Families HQ, 1483 Tremont St., Roxbury Boston Centers for Youth and Families sites (David L Ryan/Globe Staff ) SECTION: METRO TOPIC 30helpforhouston
David L Ryan/Globe Staff
Alisha Olsen from Florida and Janet Olsen from Alabama used carts to donate clothing for Texas victims at Boston City Hall.

Janet Olsen’s father died last month at 83, but the Alabama resident knew he would’ve wanted to help. So she and her sister-in-law brought two carts of gently used clothing from his closet and bureaus. They were in town to wrap up his affairs.

“He would love that his clothing would be used for a cause like this,” said Olsen, 59. “He lived in the North End. He was a true son of the city of Boston.”

That clothing joined donations brought in by Zooey and Tallulah Smoler-Curran. The sisters, ages 6 and 3, made the trip into Boston from Wayland with their dad, Pete Curran. They went to Target to buy diapers and underwear.

Zooey saw the flooding on television and wanted to help. Both little girls took money out of their piggy banks for the purchases. Zooey gave her dad $14, while Tallulah handed him a fistful of change.

Cristela Guerra can be reached at