Hope Harbeck has always been a giver. Throughout the 37 years that she has lived in Lake Highlands, she has been involved with organizations that aim to help others. Harbeck’s passion for helping refugees started through a post in a Lake Highlands Facebook group.
Neighbor Megan Carlton posted looking for donations to help set up an apartment for a refugee family from Pakistan. When Harbeck decided to help, she soon found out that many of her friends, were also planning to assist Carlton.
Harbeck and her friends decided to become regular volunteers with Carlton, and that’s how this group of helping hands came to be.
How long have you been volunteering?
I’ve been really volunteering almost my whole life because my parents were big on volunteering. I was involved with PTA when my kids were younger and helped out the schools they attended when needed. I have been volunteering for almost as long as I’ve been living in Lake Highlands.
Does your team have a name?
No, we do not have a name. We’re just a group of about seven people: myself, Megan Carlton, Latha Nehru, Patti Romanach, Jenya Teplitskaya, Megan Thomsen and Angela Kutac. There are many others that assist, but this is our core group. Many of us are spread out mostly between Lake Highlands and East Dallas.
What do you and your group provide for the families?
Agencies like World Relief, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Catholic Charities bring people in and help them get apartments. However, they do not give them basic necessities to supplement the apartments. That is where we come in. We basically fill in the gaps and give them things that they need — everything from bicycles to travel around with or sewing machines to mend their clothing. I will say the two most requested items are microwaves and vacuum cleaners.
How do you get connected with refugees in need?
I guess I gave my phone number to a few of these families, and it kind of snowballed. Most of the requests for help that we receive now are from people who text me directly on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
You have helped a lot of people from all over the world throughout the years. How many countries are represented?
We have probably helped people from over 40 different countries. Refugees from Ukraine, Congo, West Africa, South Africa, Uganda, Afghanistan and Malaysia. There are more, but I’m just naming the ones that I know that we’ve worked with.
So if there are people that want to help you with donations or gifting, how would they be able to do that?
Well, there are a couple of ways. If it’s furniture that people want to donate, we encourage them to donate to the nonprofit called Deliberate, which is run by Nick Fletcher. He also takes monetary donations that he uses to help furnish apartments for the refugees. If people would like to donate other items for the apartments, they can reach out to me on Facebook, and I will share what we are in need of.
What is the most rewarding part of helping these families?
They are just so grateful and hospitable. You can hardly leave the families without them serving you food or tea. It’s just really nice. It’s a wonderful experience to meet people from other cultures and just get to know them. Some even help us to prepare apartments for new families coming in.