20160612 Fish Fry Lake Jackson Shelter
Photo credit: Elizabeth Morse/American Red Cross

Story by Elizabeth Morse
The combined efforts of many are needed to assist those hardest hit by disasters. Over the past two weeks, this has been seen many times in Lake Jackson, Texas.

Major – and, in many areas, unprecedented – flooding near Lake Jackson forced residents from their homes. The American Red Cross opened a shelter in Christ Lutheran Church. Immediately, the community stepped in to help.

Shelter Manager John Patterson, a Red Cross volunteer, saw repeated instances of extraordinary kindness in Brazoria County. He ticks off some of the assistance provided to the shelter clients by their neighbors:

• The Surfside Police agreed to swing by the church at night. Sometimes off-duty police would sit in the parking lot. This made everyone feel more secure.

• Community members learned who had left home without extra clothing. They took sizes and brought new items for people to wear.

• One man evacuated from San Antonio to his daughter’s home near Lake Jackson, then had to evacuate to the shelter. The man kept saying he wanted to go home. One of the church members picked him up and paid for his ticket back to San Antonio.

• A paralyzed man was brought by ambulance to the shelter. After having Red Cross health workers evaluate him, the shelter did not look like a good fit for his needs. Patterson contacted the VA and they were able to get him into a nursing home.

• The weight of the rain caused the roof to cave in on a mobile home. The family living there lost everything. “We posted a request for a trailer on a local flood website,” Patterson said. “A man called and said he had a trailer. He drove up towing a 28 foot trailer, handed the family the title, and gave them some land on which to place the trailer.”

• The owner of Suds and Duds adopted the shelter, offering free laundry service to all people certified as being shelter clients by the Red Cross. Chick Fil A showed up with food and shelter residents were entertained by the company’s mascot. People donated kennels for dogs who had been evacuated. Girls Scouts brought boxes of cookies. Packages of diapers appeared at the shelter door.

Church member Sue Supak adds to the list. Some clients spoke only Spanish or Vietnamese. She used the translator on her phone to help communicate with the clients. She also donated furniture to families in need and helped with things like copying information for clients. “If you have a need, I have a rolodex,” Sue remarked.

Brad Lewis evacuated to the shelter when the waters rose around his home. He’s diabetic and has an injured foot. Red Cross health workers felt, given his problems, that he would be better off in a different environment. They worked with the community to find a motel where Brad could stay. He returns for meals at the shelter. “The Red Cross did a wonderful job of housing us and helping us,” he said.

Tina Prevost, a licensed food provider, cooked more than 300 meals for the shelter clients and the community, despite having a broken foot. Friends in the VFW helped defray the expenses. “These are people I grew up with or worked with,” Tina said. “These are my neighbors, my community.”

Pastor Paul Geisler of Christ Lutheran picks up the story. “Calls have been coming in all week. People are asking, ‘How can I help?’”

Geisler sums it up, saying, “We’re an outreach congregation. We’re glad the Red Cross is here.” Patterson returns the sentiment: “Whatever was needed, the church went out and found.”