When a Texas couple postponed their wedding events due to Hurricane Harvey, they teamed with a local Houston charity to help feed those affected by the storm.
Dayna Skolkin and Josh Tillis were set to be married on September 3, and planned a welcome dinner for friends and family two days before the ceremony at Aishel House – a local organization that provides food and shelter to patients from hospitals which Skolkin’s mother helped to start. But when Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters displaced hundreds of thousands of residents in Texas and Louisiana at the end of August, the well-being of the community became the priority, and the couple canceled their events.
“We didn’t really realize how bad it was going to be,” Skolkin, 28, tells PEOPLE. “It wasn’t until the storm hit a few days in that we came to the conclusion that the wedding was going to need to be postponed, just based on the damage that the storm had done, and how much it had affected our community.”
But since the food for the dinner had arrived a week before the event, Aishel House decided to prepare the meals for the dozens of patients and evacuees who were at the organization seeking shelter from the storm. After seeing the devastation Harvey had on the city, Skolkin and Tillis knew they wanted to help, so they volunteered to help distribute mashed potatoes, breaded chicken, bread rolls, and vegetables to those in need.
Though they lived in an apartment that was largely unaffected by the floodwaters, Skolkin says they didn’t want to sit back while others were in need of help.
“We knew the way to make ourselves feel better about the situation was to get out in the community and volunteer,” she says. “It was the first day that we were able to get out of our house and go out in the community. It felt amazing to get out there and do something productive for other people.”
Skolkin’s late mother played a major part in starting Aishel House before she passed away five years ago due to complications from a 15-year-battle with breast cancer. Volunteering at the charity, Skolkin says, helps her to feel connected to her mother and her legacy.
The couple left for a previously-planned two-week honeymoon to Italy on September 5. When they return, they will be planning a new wedding ceremony in December. But they say they will continue volunteering to help rebuild the community, and have been continually inspired by how Texans have banded together during the catastrophe.
“Everyone in Houston has been inspirational for us,” Skolkin says.
And while they are sad they will have to wait to exchange their vows, the couple is happy that the food they ordered was able to be put to good use.
“While we were disappointed that our ceremony wasn’t going to happen,” Tillis says, “it was nice that the fruits of our would-be wedding weekend went to such a better cause.”