It all began with a simple phone call to my office. A citizen who lives in a one-bedroom apartment had received calls and would have 10 family members evacuated from the coast to her house - was there any way that I could help her? I promised to make some phone calls and see what I could do!
One of the first phone calls was to Stan Weik, San Saba's City Manager, because just that day we had a meeting to begin to prepare for possible storms and the potential for evacuees. A couple of hours later, the call was received that members of the McCall family had graciously agreed to allow us to use the old San Saba Nursing Home facilities. There would be an exchange of keys and information at 4 p.m., and we would see what we had available.
What we had available was the perfect facility for a temporary storm shelter - it had all the 'stuff' that would allow us to basically just open the doors and see if we could man it! Sherry Williamson and Olga Cantu, staff from the nursing home, were already there cleaning and walked us - Stan Weik, Tony Guidroz, Judge Byron Theodosis, Tom Brand, Alvino Valdez and myself - through, pointing out what was allowed and what was to remain locked.
At 8 a.m. the next morning, the City had turned on power and water. Before the first evacuees showed up that afternoon, City employees had mowed, set up two separate 'dog runs' - in case pets were brought along, and one was! - and placed a huge dumpster on site.
A meeting happened with Edward at G&R to set up a tab for groceries (to be paid by the Ministerial Alliance) and the procedure acceptable to both of us for getting new supplies. Judge Theodosis spoke with the SuddenLink Cable Company out of Brady and they agreed to turn the cable back on to allow the evacuees the ability to keep up with the storm predictions and the return plans for each of the affected communities. Oleta Behrens with Central Texas Telephone Cooperative put in our request for a 'local only' phone service to make sure that we at least had 9-1-1 capabilities during the time that the shelter would be open. Lewann Turner came by and supplied the shelter with the option of 10 air mattresses, if it became necessary, and the offer of some funds for food and water, if it was needed.
By the time that the first families began to show up, the community of San Saba had a roof ready over their heads, a bed to lie down in, and sandwiches to eat. There had even been help to get individual TVs in some of the rooms. Some TVs were left at the nursing home, plus Tim Gill, Penny Starks and Georgia Harris donated three more.
Since it had been awhile since the air conditioning had been on, it took a little while to cool down; so, a call to Cathi Miles at the courthouse helped get us some fans to spread out. Thanks to all the County staff who willingly gave up their fans!
And they came. They came from Sweeney, Shepherd, Hempstead, Rosenberg, and Needville - 31 people from five different families. Some of them had come up here before during the Rita evacuation and knew that they would be safe here. I know that there were others spread out over the county; some with family members, some came to their hunting leases, and one family evacuated for the last time as they have chosen to move to San Saba, instead of dealing with any more hurricanes.
One of the promises made when the shelter was set up was that there would always be someone from San Saba on the premises. So, I was there for the daylight hours, and Friday and Saturday nights were divided between Georgia Harris, and R.D. and Joe Williamson. Besides sandwiches, Tim and Penny brought by hot food and some of the evacuees themselves bought and cooked food for the rest of us. By Saturday night, nearly all of them made contact with family and/or friends and knew that their homes and property were safe to return to. Only one family did not have electricity yet, but it had been promised. Also by Saturday night, we had gotten the request to shelter women and children from Conroe, where there were massive power outages. Calls were made to Stan (after all, the City had graciously absorbed the utilities) and Sherry (to check with the McCall family) to see if they were willing to allow the shelter to remain open for longer than that one weekend. It was agreed that these evacuees were still 'refugees from Hurricane Ike' and the shelter would remain open as needed.
The first round left around lunch on Sunday and the clean-up began for the next round. A big thanks to Kevin and Sherry McCall for locating the freezer for me! Many, many thanks to Maggie Brown for her help in preparing for what would be 31 women and children. They had been told that a bus was coming 'in a couple of hours' for most of Sunday - the bus picked them up at 10 p.m. on Sunday night. Lindy Schulz stayed at the shelter to be ready for them.
I got the phone call around 4:45 a.m. Monday morning that they were in town ready for a guide up to the nursing home. By 6 a.m., some were asleep and others were trying to find their way around what would be their home for nearly two weeks.
Now, the thanks get a little fuzzy because I did not always see who brought what and when! I could not have survived without Tony Guidroz, because he would call and ask, "What do you need now?"; and it would be found. Lindy Schulz was there for most of the nights, and a couple of nights, Mary Ann Dale stayed to visit. Barbara Smith and Betty Lovell also covered some nights. Betty was my 'runner' - during the days when she was available, Betty was the ‘ferry’ that made clinic and store runs with the ladies.
There were many of you in those first days that responded to calls for diapers, baby beds, diapers, playpens, diapers, highchairs, diapers, certain formulas (because we all know not to mess with the type of formula that an infant uses, if at all possible!) and FOOD!! Until I could get my legs under me and get organized meals coming in, a lot of you kept the hot food coming in at all times. Tony and Debbie Guidroz even came down and cooked some meals at the shelter when I felt overwhelmed with my inability to take care of the situation.
Thanks to the San Saba Police Department for their security efforts to keep us all safe and for the toys that you brought in. And, special thanks to Butch Maultsby for giving us the security light needed at the entrance door.
Before, and when we got past the immediate crises, many of you showed up to hold babies and play with the children (Bro. Sam and Bro. Sergio even braved five little girls and took them to the park to feed the ducks and check out the waterfall!). San Saba ISD provided tickets to the Homecoming game for those who wanted to go - thanks, Georgia, for taking them! Olga and Sherry allowed me to call them at all hours with questions and came up to help with things that I could not figure out. Janie Wooley came when I needed a professional counselor. Sabrina Maultsby was there whenever I put out a call for help.
Minessa Mesic, from Brownwood, brought Jasper and Buddy, her two dogs, to give the kids something to play with that would play back. Tim and Darlene Oskins brought their dogs, Abe and Peter, who showed us tricks and pulled a little wagon full of kids.
Thanks, Allen, for coming and showing the ladies your self-defense class. The Pecan Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross brought supplies of all kinds and Brownwood Regional Medical Center donated cases of formula and diapers. These particular items were never opened, so they were sent back on the bus to the center to be used by the ladies.
I know that the doctors and staff at the Hoerster Clinic work hard to make sure that they see everyone who walks through the door, but thanks so much for working with us on all the paperwork. And, again, I know this is what you do, but thanks to the two EMS crews for helping us out when we had real medical emergencies.
And, major thanks to Everett's Pharmacy and Karen Parker for showing these ladies that there is still a town that delivers its medicine. And, Edward Ragsdale - they couldn't believe that there was a grocery store that would deliver anything.
Did I mention the FOOD?!? It began with the first wave of refugees and continued on right up until the bus picked up the second wave. I have a list but not everyone signed - I know that several of the members from my Mom and Dad's Sunday School class supplied many casseroles. When the organizational gene kicked in, there were meals delivered by the First Presbyterian Church, First Methodist Church, Cherokee Baptist Church, Calvary Baptist Church, Town & Country, Arrowhead Bank, and The Father's House. Sonic provided ice cream treats. If you have ever been to a church social you can imagine what kind of desserts from these organizations showed up for everyone to share!
And, I can't end without many thanks to Gladys Yarbrough! Girl, you worked all day and then came up there and put in a full day's work to help those mommies feel good about themselves again!
I know that this is getting out of hand, and I know without a doubt that there are many names that should be here, but are not listed due to my faulty memory. But I can tell you that nothing went unnoticed by our guests. There was a poster left by the first round and added to by the second round of evacuees. Its continuing theme of the notes called us a 'small community with a great big heart.' I know that outside of our borders we like to call ourselves "The Pecan Capital of the World"; but I'm very proud to be able to add the other title now.
Thank you to the community of San Saba for showing southeast Texas that we have a 'big heart.'