VIDEO | Hope After Harvey
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s destructive path through Houston, a good Samaritan turns to eBay to help a stranger begin to rebuild her life.
By: Adam Kohler
Shirley Hines has lived in Houston for most of her life. She has been through hurricanes and floods before. But Harvey was different.
“All of a sudden my shoes were floating in the bedroom,” she recalls, “and I’m like ‘Oh my God, I can’t stay here.’”
At that point, Shirley knew it was time to leave. She jumped in her SUV and drove to find higher ground. What she found instead were more flooded streets—and with the torrential rain showing no signs of letting up, she quickly realized she was stuck.
For the next 2 days, Shirley waited in her flooded car for help.
“One of my co-workers has a friend that’s a policeman and he [calls] on his radio, ‘Any wreckers in that area?’ But nobody could go get me because of all the water.”
When Shirley was finally rescued, she went back to find the inside of her home completely destroyed, and started to pick up the pieces of what was left. One item in particular, stood out. A treasured set of cups, which were passed down from her mother, were cracked and left in pieces. A day or two later, a reporter for the New York Times came by and wrote a story about the devastation, highlighting Shirley’s story among a few others in her neighborhood.
In Frederick, Maryland, Ann Dahms read about Shirley and decided she needed to do something to help replace those cups. “I recognized what that cup meant to her, and I knew that somewhere out there, there would be another cup…and wouldn’t you know, eBay had it.”
Ann found a set of cups just like the ones destroyed by the storm on eBay and sent them to Shirley in what she says was just a simple act of kindness.
Meanwhile, back in Houston, Shirley was trying to adjust to her new life, living out of the only motel in the area that still had availability; juggling with contractors, insurance adjustors and rental car companies, all while returning to her job as a care coordinator for a home health care company.
When Shirley received the eBay package in the mail from Ann, she was shocked. “That was the most beautiful thing that I think anybody has ever done for me,” she said.
Amidst all the chaos in the recovery process, Shirley hadn’t had a chance to go to the store to find the right thank-you card to send back to Ann.
But as it turns out, she didn’t have to.
Once eBay learned about Shirley’s story, we started planning for a surprise meeting between the two women, who connected through our marketplace, but lived thousands of miles apart. We also knew Shirley was having trouble replacing her totaled car, with predatory dealers and lots of flood-damaged cars on the market. With one of the largest auto inventories on our site, we turned to eBay seller Texas Direct to help us find the perfect car for Shirley.
With everything set in place, we met Shirley at her home in Houston and had her give us a tour, taking in firsthand just how bad the damage was. Then Shirley got her first of two surprises—Ann showed up on her doorstep, telling her how much her story of perseverance meant to her.
“She’s very obviously a woman of great dignity and courage, and it’s always good to be in the presence of people like that,” Ann said.
And finally, as the two women were catching up, a 2016 Jeep Compass pulled into her driveway, and after some initial confusion, Shirley learned the car was hers to keep.
“I’m at a loss of words,” a stunned Shirley whispered. “This is unbelievable.”
Whether it’s cups or a car, eBay exists to help connect and empower people all around the world. Unfortunately, Shirley’s story is one of the many people affected by the recent hurricanes from Harvey to Irma to Maria.