Community members still working together to rebuild after Harvey

By Megan Whitworth

Even after the shelters closed, community support was still being felt as community members picked up their lives after the devastation left from Hurricane Harvey at the end of August.

One place that soon opened its doors after the hurricane hit and was turned into a distribution center was the Community & Children’s Impact Center’s new location in Shepherd. Even after the shelters closed, the Impact Center remained open to help community members.
“When the hurricane hit, of course we were three weeks out from having this building done, we immediately went into a 90-degree turn. I started getting on Facebook. We started working with (commissioner) Donny Marrs and Trish Marrs, and kind of coordinated a few things,” said Brenda Myers, Impact Center president. “The next thing I knew this had turned into a full fledge distribution center.

“We started going …door to door, subdivision to subdivision. We’ve been doing that every single day since it started,” she added. “As of yesterday we were still delivering trucks over to Romayor Fire Department, because they have not had any (assistance from the) American Red Cross, no help whatsoever in that area.”

The day after the shelters closed, nearly three weeks ago, the Impact Center was open for lunch. For the first week, Myers said 400 people came for lunch daily. Then the numbers dwindled down to 100 and then 50. Just a few days ago, Impact Center volunteers stopped serving lunches so they could focus on placing the final touches for opening day on Oct. 1. Myers then worked with volunteers from the American Red Cross to still serve lunches people in need with daily mobile units.

Myers said people across the country have come to deliver supplies and to volunteer time to help people rebuild.

“We’ve had people from Colorado; we’ve had people from Kentucky, Mississippi. We just had a guy from Chicago come yesterday and made a delivery,” Myers said. “I said, ‘Sir, let me ask you a question. How in Chicago did they hear about the Impact Center?’ He said, ‘Ms. Myers, the Impact Center is everywhere. Every time we see a post, we see the Children’s Impact Center.’”

People also came from towns across East Texas, including Lufkin. Myers said volunteers drove an hour on the weekends, and even during the week to assist the non-profit organization. She thanked volunteers from Cross Timbers Cowboy Church, St. Cyprian’s Church, Carpenter’s Way Baptist Church and Cowboy Church of Lufkin. She also thanked volunteers: Megan Glass, Cindi Clark, Lynn Repp, Lisa Shoemaker, Rosalyn Harris, Grace Ann Wilson, Cathie McKeel Carr, Brigitte, Don Langston and Linda Langston.

“It makes me proud to know that people care from other states and cities, and our neighboring cities,” she added. “Our city did a great job, there were a few glitches here and there, but when it all came full together, everybody kind of came together. I’m really proud that the love and compassion for other human beings just came full force. I know it was a disaster, a lot of sadness, a lot of sorrow, a lot of devastation, but in the end there was more love and compassion than I’ve seen in the 14 years I’ve been doing what I’m doing. It makes me really, really proud.”

Myers said that she was “a little upset” about the disaster relief process, and that it should have been coordinated better. She also said she is working with the owner of Premier Boating to purchase a boat at cost for Shepherd Fire Dept.

“I think there needs to be a few more things implemented in our community to where we have boats right there and start being able to rescue right away,” Myers said.

But one thing she is not upset about is how community members came together during a moment of crisis.

“Our team has been dedicated. These folks like, Maria, Rosa and Perla – they have been here every single day. Making food, delivering items, fixing the store room up – every single day,” Myers said. “…These are the kind of people, right here, that don’t get recognized in our community. They’re behind the scenes, but I could not do it without people like this. I love each and every one of my volunteers, because we couldn’t do it without it without folks coming together and helping us.”

Myers also received a donated house and storage units for The Impact Center. She is looking for a mover to relocate the house and storage units. She will give a tax write-off to the company to assist in moving the house and units.

“Right now as we speak, they are over there cleaning it up and putting bleach all in it and getting it all nice and spruced up for us to move it,” she said. “God is moving in the Impact Center’s favor, that’s all I can say.”