Michael duVigneaud has made it his mission to help foster a sense of male community leadership in Houston — but he never imagined his goals being put to use in the ways they have in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The 46-year-old is the co-founder of the Houston-area chapters of F3, a workout group designed to promote fitness, fellowship and faith among men via free, outdoor workout sessions offered six days a week in various locations throughout Greater Houston.
“We workout together and hangout together and have good times together, but it’s time like this that that the leadership aspect of it and the outward focus really kicks in,” duVigneaud tells PEOPLE of how the group sprung into action in the days after Hurricane Harvey devastated the southeast region of Texas.
They helped with water rescues before transitioning into helping families demolish their homes and move their things.
- For more stories of neighbors helping neighbors recover after Hurricane Harvey, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE — on newsstands Friday
One woman duVigneaud and his F3 brethren were able to help was mother of two Madelaine Pfahler.
Pfahler, her husband and their two sons escaping the floodwaters in their house by climbing a ladder over their back fence, they were taken in by neighbors they’d never met.
Then, days later, as Pfahler sifted through the remains of her ravaged home, two women she’d never seen before showed up in her front yard to help clean up. They worked for hours and returned the next day with their husbands—and a dozen others who are all part of F3.
“I don’t know what we would have done without F3,” says Pfahler, 48. “The generosity of strangers has been beyond amazing.”
duVigneaud says he’s glad to see his group is not the only one helping during this time of crisis.
“There is so much divisiveness right now. Everything has moved to the extreme. There is no room for the moderate voice, the voice of common sense. It’s so needed right now to come together as a community. I don’t know a single person here’s religious or political affiliation and I don’t care,” says duVigneaud while standing in the yard of another Houstonian receiving the help of F3. “We’re here to do things that are in our common interest. To see all of Houston rally to the cause is incredibly inspiring and hopefully will spread out to the rest of the country.”