Houston jewelry store owner sets up Hurricane Ida relief effort

Miya Shay Image
Friday, September 3, 2021
Houston jeweler store owner sets up Hurricane Ida relief effort
THIS IS HOW WE HOUSTON! A former New Orleans resident made Houston his home back when Katrina hit. Now, he's helping out during Ida aftermath.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An Enterprise rental truck looks a bit out of place parked next to the very fancy Valobra Master Jewelers on Westheimer, but Franco Valobra wouldn't have it any other way.

"Sixteen years ago when Katrina hit, there was no way to stay there," said the Italian turned New Orleans resident who is now living in Houston. "Houston welcomed me with open arms."

Valobra operated his namesake store in New Orleans before the unplanned evacuation to Houston. The move turned into a business boom as he opened another store in the city. Now, he is using the store as a temporary relief supply collection site.

Gas cans, paper towels, water and other supplies were all being loaded up on Friday. Valobra encouraged Houstonians to drop off donations between Friday and next week before the truck heads to New Orleans.

"We're going to do it all the way through Tuesday, and Wednesday the trucks leaves. If we have another truck we'll bring another and fill it," said Valobra.

And the state of Louisiana could certainly use it. Many communities are still without power and could very well be like that for weeks. Homes that are damaged have no real timeline for repairs.

MORE: Hurricane Ida damage to Louisiana's power grid expected to take weeks to repair

"We worked so hard to get a home for her," said Shelby Bryan, a Baton Rouge evacuee. "We worked, saved up, worked on our credit, and now the house is destroyed after having been there just four months."

Bryan, who has an 18-month-old, said they packed everything they could into a small car and drove to a hotel in Houston when they realized they would be without power. She said she does not know if her daughter, Rori, will ever get to spend another night in their home.

"I don't know what we're doing next in life," said Noel. "But, we don't have anywhere to go. We don't know our next move."

WATCH: Louisianans, heads up! List of Houston places with food, shelter

Here's a resource list to keep handy for Louisiana residents arriving to the Houston area to wait out the hurricane.

Hundreds of college students in New Orleans also remain displaced.

Fortunately, the University of Houston-Downtown opened a relief site Friday afternoon for students. Shirts, bags of food and a coveted H-E-B gift card were available for any college student who arrived at the UHD campus.

"It's great," said Becky Nguyen, a student at Xavier University who is currently staying at a Houston hotel. "It's really nice that UHD is doing this for us because I know they went through Harvey, and so it's really nice they're doing for us as well."

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