Marble Falls ISD staff member Leonard Venghaus shifted his focus from school children to a broader group of people left vulnerable due to the winter storm conditions.
“This is our community. We grew up with hurricanes in Port Arthur, so we know,” Venghaus said. “They’re anxious. People don’t have food, no heat, no water.”
Venghaus and his wife Jackie joined dozens of volunteers Feb. 17 coordinated by the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, a consortium of churches, in a cooperative effort with the city to set up an emergency shelter for those hardest hit by the week-long storm.
“They’re super cold. They need power. They need food … This affects lots of children,” said Pastor Ross Chandler of Marble Falls First Baptist Church. “A lot of the time, they can’t get to supplies – diapers, formula, so in order to take care of a community as large as ours. A lot of people have to pull together.”
Initially, the shelter was planned for the Baptist Church but an ice-slicked and hillside location on US 281 hampered efforts to shuttle to the location. By Tuesday, Feb. 16, organizers had established the shelter at Marble Falls Middle School, but cold-damaged water pipes prompted a move.
The current location, 1101 Bluebonnet Dr., also experienced plumbing and water damage issues due to the cold, which was eventually repaired.
Evacuees were moved into FUMC’s Family Life Center and in the multi-purpose room. Coordinators set up three childrens’ rooms and a special care area for those who need power for medical equipment.
“Half the community doesn’t have water. People are trapped in their homes.
“With the rolling blackouts, we have people who are on oxygen,” Chandler said. “They can’t plug in their machines. They need a place that has generators.”
The church also offers an area to house pets.
Volunteers began car-pooling and utilizing four-wheel drive vehicles to shuttle workers back and forth to the shelter site and deliver food to homebound residents.
“We’re adaptable. That’s the name of the game. Jump and move and be flexible,” said Kevin Naumann, executive director with Highland Lake Crisis Network. “That’s the good thing. We’ve had some practice. We’ve been through the flood. That’s where we started pulling the churches together.
“We did a lot of the meals over the summer during the COVID response. 160,000 meals over the summer. That’s what prepared us for this.”
HLCN also established food distribution sites at the Granite Shoals Police Department, 410 N. Phillips Ranch Road and Kingsland First Baptist Church, 3435 Ranch Rd 1431. The Kingsland church is also serving as an emergency shelter. In Llano County, official have established the First Baptist Church of Llano, 107 W. Luce, as an emergency shelter.
“We have it on good authority that things might get worse before it gets better, especially as things start thawing out, as far as people needing help, needing places to stay, needing food – just the necessities,” Naumann said.
Chandler referred to Scripture for insight on the foundation of the effort.
“In Galations 6:9, it reads ‘Do not get tired of doing well,’” Chandler said. “Sometimes in times in the middle of difficulty, you can get fatigued in will doing, but if we can press on, then there is a harvest coming if you don’t give up.
“We’re not getting tired, doing the best we can with our eye on the harvest.”
For more information, to become a volunteer or offer a donation, go to www.highlandlakescrisisnetwork.com.