Harvey refugees harbor in Highland Lakes

Glynis Crawford Smith/The Highlander

At a lunch provided by First Baptist Church – Burnet, Swanna Lofton, center, explains resources her congregation has been assembling for refugees such as the family of Glenna Roberts, with whom she is seated. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Rockport family seated with them are, from left, Skyla, Kimberlynn and Ray Jr. Jasso and Baille Phillips. Mid-day has been set as a meeting time with local churches and organizations delivering help to storm victims at Inks Lake State Park.

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

Estimates have more than 30,000 Texans seeking emergency shelter as the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey continues, but many are safe and dry in the Texas Hill Country.

Mission Marble Falls at St. Frederick Church geared up for a lunch Tuesday, Aug. 29, to welcome people fleeing the storm.

Ann Sherman and Ron Farmer had traveled from Port Aransas.

“When they said Harvey would come as a Category 1, we were going to stay,” said Sherman. “Then they said Category 3 or maybe 4.

“Ron said we are going. We grabbed our cat, our records, our pictures and we got out in 45 minutes.”

A few people stayed behind and the couple said the news was disheartening.

“The roof is gone and the ceiling is on the floor,” he said.

Two groups of people from Sweeney who had never met were lunching in the St. Frederick dining room.

Shanna Jones was talking to her husband Ryan who was on lock down in a Phillips Petroleum plant.

“We can talk to him, but he can't leave,” she said. “I came by myself with my four kids and we have been offered a couple's guest house in Johnson City.”

Her children had been back in school five days when the headed north and they might not have left except for the mandatory evacuation declaration.

“Now we are keeping an eye on the San Bernard and Brazos rivers for flooding,” said Jones. “They come together near our home.”

The other Sweeny crowd was headed for a family vacation home in Granite Shoals might have left anyway. Heather and Chris Brown were coaxing their two-year-old daughter Rylee to sample the spaghetti being served from the church kitchen.

“We were lucky to have a place to come,” said Heather.

All Texas State Parks, including Inks Lake State Park, are cancelling regular reservations and sheltering people free of charge.

“They can handle 3,000 people or more,”T.K. Laurendo, Inks Park host said Tuesday. “We have more than 50 families and are expecting more. Most people here are in their own travel trailers or our cabins, but we have tent campers from the storm, too.”

“We had money set aside for a vacation, but all our ready cash is gone,” said Vicki Thompson. “We had reservations at Garner State Park, but we may just stay here.”

“Our home at Goliad might have been okay, but there is no water or phone service,” said her husband, Mark. “We were pretty sure our fifth wheel wouldn't make it through the storm.”

Laurendo had a special request for people who want to help.

“There are things that will be needed, but want to ask people not to bring donations to the park,” Laurendo added. “We have no place to store supplies.”

Instead, the park has made a central campground a meeting place where churches and charities and local businesses are serving a noon meal and taking account of what people need.

“We want to be sensitive to people's privacy and safety,” said Laurendo.

Dakota McRae was enjoying a hamburger served by First Baptist Church – Burnet Tuesday as she fed her nine-month-old daughter, Claire, from a bottle.

“We left the day before it hit,” said McRae. “We drove all night to get here. We just wouldn't have taken a chance with a baby.

“Now we are here and the sun is shining and the lake is just beautiful; all the people have been so friendly and welcoming and helpful.”

“I just know we will be coming back to make this a family vacation spot,” she said.

Meanwhile, her First Baptist hosts from Burnet were taking down notes about what people would need and what they needed to learn about family left behind. That is going on all over the Highland Lakes.

“We had about 60 at a meal we served at First Baptist Church in Marble Falls Monday night,” said Jeff Sellers on Tuesday, Aug. 29. “They came from Rockport and Aransas Pass and Corpus Christi and now we are seeing people arriving from Houston.”

Sellers was meeting arrivals at St. Frederick's door Tuesday, urging early registration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He, as an emergency management consultant, and his wife decided early on to set up their own clearing house for local assistance, Hill Country Hurricane Relief, with a website and Facebook page.

Where to help

A story in this edition of The Highlander, outlines the major ways government emergency management entities suggest helping.

Almost every church in Texas is connecting with some way to help or donate.

If you want to donate supplies or things to help families on the road, a good place to start are central locations used to handling them. A call ahead may help you choose what is most needed.

If you want to donate clothing, remember, it needs to be clean. Refugees don't have laundries at their disposal.

Sort and label everything by size and gender. Piles of unsorted clothing become piles of useless rags.

Some regular resources for food and clothing locally are:

Marble Falls Helping Center, 830-693-5689, 1315 Broadway Street, Marble Falls.

Joseph's Pantry, 830-220-2344, 706 North Phillips Ranch Road, Granite Shoals.

Lakes Area Care (LACare), 512-756-4422, 507 Buchanan Drive, Burnet.

Hope's Closet Clothing Ministry, 830-385-6128, 304 Industrial Boulevard, Burnet.

Sharing the Harvest, 325-388-0620, 3435 West Ranch to Market Road 1431, Kingsland.

King's Closet Ministry of First Baptist Church – Kingsland, 325-388-4507, 3435 West Ranch to Market Road 1431, Kingsland.

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