Hurricane Relief Update

11.01.17 | Front Page , Homepage | by Colin Hills

Hurricane Relief Update

Colin Hills is the Disaster Relief Coordinator at Church of the Transfiguration and part of the diocesan disaster relief team.

The morning of September 29, I and two parishioners met in the Transfiguration parking lot to depart for Corpus Christi. We hooked up the trailer, took care of a few last minute custodial tasks, and were on our way at 9:09 a.m. On the way, I contacted the person coordinating our lodging, and the person coordinating our work sites. Our small team made the decision that they would head to their bunks, while I took a tour of the work sites so we could hit the ground running the next day. We slept in a youth house in Corpus Christi, and worked at a handful of sites in Refugio, about an hour to the north. 

The next morning, we hit the road at 8 a.m., so we could have a full day’s work. We began our day at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Refugio, which had sustained roof damage and downed trees. Our first task was to tarp the roof of a small chapel, held dear in the hearts of Ascension’s congregation. To accomplish that, two of us worked on the roof, while one stayed on the ground to serve as our eyes, pass us tools and materials, and generally help out on the ground. After finishing, during a break, I noticed Ascension’s sign had been broken off its mount, so I took a moment to reinstall it. The congregation of Ascension hadn’t missed a Sunday since returning to Refugio, so it seemed to make sense that they should have their sign visible.

After wrapping up at the church, we went to a parishoner’s house to remove the ceiling and insulation from their home office. We opened a window and threw the debris through it into a wheelbarrow, so that a team member could roll it to the street. We were working in a small space, so two of us worked, while a third spent the time sitting and talking with the homeowner. In my experience with service trips, I’ve notice the importance of that task. A simple conversation is what brings a work crew from relative anonymity to familiarity to the homeowner, and what moves the work from service to mission.

We spent 12 hours working on Saturday, and made it back to Corpus around 10 p.m. We grabbed a quick dinner, returned home, and hit the sack around 11:30 p.m. The plan for the next day had not been developed yet, so we didn’t set any alarms. Sunday morning came, and I had some texts from the local coordinators. Our site for the day was at the Refugio County Airport. The airport’s manager lived onsite, and needed help clearing debris from her yard. More than anywhere else, this was where the storm’s impact was apparent. After finishing our work on the manager’s home, we saw a hangar that had a six seat prop plane hanging off of it by the tail. The plane had been chained down during the storm, but the chains broke and the plane was blown up there by the strong winds. After finishing up at the airport, we returned to Ascension to clear downed trees. We broke out the chainsaws, cut the trees down to manageable pieces, and moved them to the street. We began our return trip to Dallas.

That was our schedule for this weekend, but here’s what we did: we brought relief, calm, and love to a community that was sorely lacking it. We showed up, worked hard, and did our best, and that was enough. We didn’t fix all the damage, we didn’t do anything that complex, but we did something. Right now, the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas is the only group that has made a long term commitment to helping the Diocese of West Texas. They’ve had volunteers from all over the country, but none of those groups have planned to return. Consequently, the Diocese of West Texas has trusted us with their highest priority, most urgent sites.

The diocese doesn’t need food, water, or bedding. They need a few tools here and there, but mostly, they need hands. They need compassionate people to show up and care. I plan to take groups of those people down there until the money or work runs out, whichever comes first. I’ll provide shelter, showers, and sustenance. All I ask for is a willingness to give of yourself to a community in need. Our next trips are November 10, 12 and December 8 through 10.  For more information on how to donate or volunteer email the Rev. Keith Turbeville or call at 972-771-8242.