‘We are San Jacinto County Strong’

Volunteers and evacuees pose together for a photo during lunch on Friday at Jones Education Complex in Coldspring. (Megan Whitworth Photo)Volunteers and evacuees pose together for a photo during lunch on Friday at Jones Education Complex in Coldspring. (Megan Whitworth Photo)

By Megan Whitworth

As the rain came down and families evacuated their homes on Sunday, Aug. 27, San Jacinto County community members rallied together to open shelters and gather supplies as people made home at the shelters.

The Shepherd Community Center in Shepherd and the Jones Education Complex were opened as shelters that day, with Shepherd Middle School opening up as a shelter later in the week.

Candy Everitt-Currie volunteered at the Jones campus from that first day and throughout the week. She said within hours of opening up the campus as a shelter, donations flooded in as volunteers welcomed 100 people that evening.

“It's hard to put into words the emotions that one experiences when you walk into the shelter,” Currie said. “The look of devastation on the people's face is absolutely heart breaking. But on the other note you also see hope and thankfulness that they survived and have somewhere to come too.

“The outpouring of the community has been amazing. I have watched people dare the rain to come out to bring any supplies they may have,” she added. “We at San Jacinto County Cowboy Church have cooked several meals and the people are so appreciative. The love and support during this time has been so humbling. It was scary last night when people were coming in without their medications, such as insulin, seizure medications; however, with the assistance of some awesome volunteers we have managed to get everyone taken care of.”
Down the road at the Shepherd Community Center, volunteer Laurelee Carson said even though workers from FEMA or volunteers from the American Red Cross weren’t able to make it to the shelter until later in the week, that didn’t stop volunteers from coming to the rescue. Even people from across the state came and brought supplies. One man came as far from El Paso and brought supplies to the shelter with plans to come back, Carson said.

“Even through the tragedy, there’s still positive out there, people working together and trying to make a difference,” she said.

Carson also noted that businesses have donated and helped many during this difficult time.

“Wal-mart has donated; McClain’s grocery store - they have cooked, they have brought us supplies, and have not charged us any. And as a family owned grocery store, that’s their livelihood,” she said. “They’ve been more than gracious to help us in this time of need. …It’s amazing how everybody has come together and helped out.”

Currie said volunteers will be ready to when the time comes when families are ready to rebuild their homes.

“This is not over; this doesn’t stop when these doors close today,” she said. “…When they rebuild their homes, we will be there helping them. We will have clothes for them; we will have food for them.”

The shelters at the middle school and Jones campus closed on Friday and moved evacuees to the shelter at the community center. As they were getting ready to move people over, Jones campus’ volunteer Shannon Wallace said she has seen the community work as one.

“We are San Jacinto County strong,” Wallace said.

“Although this is Coldspring, we have a big rivalry with shepherd - they’re blue; we’re red. But when it comes down to it we’re not. We’re one community,” she added. “…It just makes you smile so much you cry. It makes you love to be here.”