Local residents sending relief to areas hit by Hurricane Harvey

Published 3:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

After days of pummeling rain in southern Texas, Pike County residents are sending relief to the area, specifically targeting some of the areas outside of Houston.

Tony Weaver of First Baptist Church led a team of fellow members Doug Albers, Casey Bell and Jacob Grant early Wednesday morning to take the first round of supplies to Beaumont, Texas.

“The group of guys I’m with all felt led by the Holy Spirit to go spend time with these people who lost a lot, if not all, that they had,” Weaver said. “That’s why we wanted to come out here. It’s pretty overwhelming to see what the residents of the Troy community did in eight hours; all the money, water, food, baby supplies– everything we needed to make the trip happen, the community pretty much made that happen for us.”

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In fact, the group got so many donations in such a short time that some of it had to be left– but Lambda Chi president Joe Payne and 15 members of the fraternity will be bringing it down along with even more donations this weekend.

“We have Chick-fil-a and Hazel’s Engraving and Gift’s taking donations during normal business hours and then delivering them to us,” Payne said. “Early Friday morning we’ll be taking five trucks and trailers of supplies down there. We’re actually still looking for one more trailer.”

Both the First Baptist group and Lambda Chi are also bringing small boats and kayaks, primarily to deliver supplies to those who are trapped in their homes, but are ready to help rescue people if the situation is called for.

“If we need to move people, we told them we’re ready for whatever,” Payne said. “We’re going to have some kind of either military or police force with us going to distribute supplies and if it turns out we need to help someone, we will.”

Weaver said they chose to specifically make their way to Beaumont after a woman in the community relayed issues going on there.

“It’s a little east of Houston, so it’s still completely devastated,” Weaver said. “A lady in our community has a cousin that pastors a church there and she said they have little to no resources and few first responders.”

At Charles Henderson High School (CHHS) the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is working to collect materials as well to send back with CHHS FBLA alumni in Port Arthur, Texas.

“It’s hard to see such devastation on the news and Facebook,” said Abbie Barron, a senior FBLA member. “I could not imagine being in their shoes and making the difficult decisions they are having to make. I want to help in any way that I can, and I think it’s great that not just our school, but the whole community can come together to help Texas.”

Tammy Nichols, an FBLA alumna that fled from her Port Arthur home with her brother-in-law Marcus Brown and his family, said many of the areas surrounding Houston are struggling as the big city draws much of the attention.

“Houston has gotten most of the coverage because it has so many people, but it’s essentially the same in these other areas around it,” Nichols said. She fled the area along with her brother-in-law Marcus Brown and his family as Tropical Storm Harvey looped back around and came directly for their home.

With all of them living in Troy for the majority of their lives, they had never faced an evacuation process until this storm hit.

“Everything changed very quickly,” Nichols said. “It wasn’t projected to hit us directly– we kind of waited it out.”

“You don’t really realize until you see what’s going on first-hand,” Brown said. “I remember waking up and seeing water in my garage, looking at my 4-month-old daughter and thinking ‘What do we do next?’ Looking out at our street and there’s no street; it’s a river.”

Nichols said she wants people to understand that during situations like this, people can’t evacuate as easily as some people might think.

“It’s very upsetting to me when people say ‘they should’ve left, they should’ve left, they should’ve left’– people that have never experienced it could never understand,” Nichols said. “So many people didn’t have means and because the evacuation was not mandatory, the government is not going to provide it. When there’s no mandatory evacuation and your job doesn’t think the weather will be bad enough to leave, you stay there. We were going to ride it out. It was supposed to be depression when it hit us wouldn’t be catastrophic.”

Nichols described the need going on in Port Arthur right now.

“All the surrounding cities have been flooded,” Nichols said. “There are no mattresses, there’s no food at Wal-Mart because the trucks can’t get in. Everything they did have in their refrigerators is ruined because the power’s out. Houses are destroyed, jobs are destroyed, there’s no way to get anything. The mosquitoes are terrible and there’s flesh-eating bacteria in the water.

“Water, toothpaste, toothbrushes, diapers –things we take for granted, everyday essentials– the smallest gesture will be monumental to some of these people. These people need blankets, they need bedding and they also need prayer and support.”

During the time of much loss, Brown said there has been a silver lining.

“You see the desperation of people but you also see the love of people,” Brown said. “Two weeks ago, the country was divided on race; now people are coming together forming human chains to rescue people. It’s bringing the community together; people aren’t seeing black and white; they’re seeing American and American.”

Donations to the CHHS FBLA can be made during school hours at the Trojan Corner at CHHS.