Desert Southwest Conference sent 6 teams to the Victoria-Refugio-Rockport area of Texas where the worst of the hurricane damage occurred: 40 ERTs plus 8 chainsaw guys who deployed twice for 3 weeks each. Jo Robinson (ERT) worked 2 weeks on an ERT team, then stayed 2 ½ weeks to help in the Disaster Office. Our costs all averaged under $300/person this fall, excluding the cost of maintaining the chainsaws.
We cut team costs by hauling the ERT tool trailer to Victoria with the first team, and leaving it there until our last team returns just before Thanksgiving. Other teams used the trailer when it was available.
Special thanks to Herb Miller (ERT), our restock guy in Gilbert, who made sure the tools and supplies were purchased and handed off to the next team going. In Victoria we were blessed by access to a FEMA supply room full of tarps, nails, furring strips, contractor bags, Tyvek suits, and mold removal supplies.
First UMC at Ft. Stockton, TX welcomed us on Saturday nights to sleep in their fellowship hall, saving motel costs. Victoria First UMC housed many teams each week, opening their old education building, kitchen, and dining area to us without any cost at all. And left-over groceries from previous teams dramatically cut our grocery costs. One team laughed that it just “lived off the land.”
Sure, we all worked long hard days, satisfied we had made a big difference. When problems developed, we got creative. One team used a small pickup backed up to the porch to carry heavy bags and rubbish out to the road, sparing their muscles.
The poverty and substandard housing was that of a third world country, right here in Texas. The need remains overwhelming in the Refugio area.
More teams are needed, both ERT and chainsaw.
If God nudges you to go, please let us know. Can you get 6-8 people from your church to go between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or just after Christmas? ERT training can be combined with the actual trip if POLLY TURNER goes too. Likewise, chainsaw teams can do training when JIM REEVES goes. Both are considering return trips.
After each major disaster, specially trained assessors are needed to go into the neighborhoods and assess damages done by the storm so volunteer teams with the right skills can be sent quickly. Such help was spread thinly this year. Many areas in south Texas have still not been helped, even with basic tarping. If ladders, lifting, and mold have discouraged you, consider taking the Assessment Training, which would allow you to work directly with a Disaster Office for as long as you can, at your own pace. ERT teams depend on good assessments.