Representatives of Bella Investment Group pose with other relief workers in Houston. (Courtesy photo)

As most Arizonans watch from afar as residents of Texas and Florida reel from the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, many wonder how to help in a disaster of such magnitude. Individual efforts feel like a proverbial “drop in the bucket” compared to the massive need for relief and recovery.

One Flagstaff business, Bella Investment Group, owners of eight multi-family housing properties in Flagstaff and three in Cottonwood, sent funds and manpower to Houston last week to meet the needs of the residents of some 60,000 apartments flooded by Hurricane Harvey.

Bella managing partners, Amy Smith Montoya and Gina Picicci, along with their property owners, committed early after the storm hit to donate $100,000 to Harvey relief efforts and soon after sent a team of six to Houston to partner with Apartment Life to create relief kits and distribute them to residents impacted by the flooding.

“I just kept thinking, ‘What if this was Flagstaff?’ Bella doesn’t have the resources to bring people in to support what would be not just a business disaster, but a personal one for our teams as well. It was important for me to send people and not just write a check, and I wanted our team to have the blessing of touching people first-hand,” said Bella managing partner Amy Smith Montoya.

Houston’s multifamily housing market, at 616,000 units, is the second largest in the U.S. only to Dallas-Fort Worth. A detailed analysis by Yardi, a software provider for the real estate investment and property management industry, concluded that between 45,000 and 72,000 multi-family units in Houston were damaged by Harvey enough to be uninhabitable. It was also estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 residents of subsidized apartment units were displaced.

Gina Picicci, Bella managing partner, and Khara House, were members of the team that went to Houston to serve the residents of apartment communities in Houston, packing and delivering relief kits — and hope to those who had lost so much. House was personally impacted not only by the devastation the community has experienced, but the outpouring of concern and help from around the country.

“We witnessed police cars lining the streets from around the country to lend aid and relief to first responders who had not yet even had the chance to assess and accept their personal losses,” House said. “We saw barbecue fundraisers and Red Cross vans delivering lunches and dinners where they were needed most. We saw neighbor reaching out to neighbor to lighten each other’s loads. And we saw tears of sorrow become tears of joy as people heard how far folks had come to help.”

While the degree of devastation could seem insurmountable, even the smallest act of kindness, the gift of any size, while just “a drop in the bucket” was met with great gratitude and continues to make a difference in so many lives.

“We expected the despair in the faces of the people of the community to match the destruction we saw in the streets. But where we expected despair, we saw hope,” House said.

Yardi’s report also estimates Harvey’s economic impact on Houston to range from $100 billion to $180 billion.

Donations for Apartment Life Harvey Relief Kits can be made at


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