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Town of Friendly Living helps Harvey victims

By Sherrie Williams
Iowa Park is known for being the Town of Friendly living that takes care of it’s own. But, the residents’ caring nature isn’t exclusively toward Iowa Park residents, many reach out to those in need across the country.
So, when Hurricane Harvey hit the gulf coast area residents started planning to do what they could to help their fellow Texans.
A collection point was set up at Alley Storage.
Then several residents volunteered time and took boats to the flooded communities to help. Some Iowa Park residents who are employed with first responder agencies such as AMR Ambulance Service, Wichita Falls Fire Department, and Air Evac were deployed to the coastal area.
Some local business owners and residents decided to load a truck with donated items and deliver it to one of the smaller communities hit hard by Harvey.
Tracy Lehman owner of Tracy Lehman Trucking donated the use of a semi, Howard Williamson donated the use of a trailer and Water’s Ag donated the use of a container for donations to be collected in and transported to Rockport.
According to Robin Morris, who assisted with organizing the collection efforts and sorting the donated items, the truck was put in place Thursday afternoon and Lehman and Patsy Purcella pulled out with the loaded truck at 10 p.m. Sunday night.
Many generous donors made the trip possible.
The truck was filled with baby diapers, formula, baby wipes, baby food, paper and cleaning products, hygiene items, water, new socks, and more.
Wichita Humane Society donated approximately $500 worth of dog and cat food, and kitty litter, Munster Milling and Tony’s Feed and Seed donated pallets of dog food.
Don Ellis with Wichita Supply donated 500 hard hats, 40 flat head shovels, 40 three-gallon Igloo water coolers, three pallets of water, a pallet of work gloves and safety goggles, as well as the use of heavy equipment to load the pallets onto the truck.
Lowes Grocery donated a pallet of water as well.
Iowa Park Optimist Club donated $500 toward the truck fuel and patrons of Riverside Bingo donated $111 to top off the gas tank.
Some residents donated $100 or more, but wished to remain anonymous.
Some of the Iowa Park residents who took boats to the Houston area shared what they saw and experienced while volunteering.
Scott Skinner and Lauren Rittenhouse left last Tuesday morning with a livestock trailer and went to the Conroe area to assist with livestock rescue. They headed back after dark Thursday.
Skinner said what people are seeing on television is nothing compared to seeing the devastation first hand.
“People just can’t imagine how bad it really is,” he said. “The news doesn’t give a firm grasp of how bad it is.”
But, he said there were people helping people everywhere.
Some of their rescues included swimming horses to safety, as well as assisting with rescuing dogs and cats.
They also assisted in moving an animal rescue shelter from one area to another after the first rescue location started being at risk of flooding.
One of the most touching events Skinner saw while there was two families being reunited with their pets.
“It was very emotional.” Skinner said.
In addition to the many individuals volunteering Skinner said they saw the Mexico Red Cross move in to help.
He recalled a group of Redneck Rescuers with their monster trucks pulled a state humvee out of a flooded area.
Also, he mentioned the Cajun Navy that was 50 boats strong helping. “They were good Louisiana people there day and night rescuing people,” said Skinner.
Jeremy Hicks and Derek Vann shared some of what they saw while volunteering in the flooded areas. They as well as Zach Liggett and Denny Chester left last Tuesday afternoon.
Derek said he didn’t get to stay as long as the others because he just spent his two days off from work traveling to and from and spending time rescuing.
“I wanted to help my fellow Texans and wanted to do what others would do if something happened here,” Vann said.
He told of rescuing people and taking them to dry land where Black Hawk Helicopters flown by Border Control flew the rescued to shelters.
He also recalled his group rescued a dog that ended up “hanging” out on the boat with them.
The dog was later reunited with it’s owner, but Vann said they enjoyed his company.
The men slept in a pickup, ate at the Bridge City Fire Department, and took cold showers at the high school.
Hicks said his group eventually teamed up with the Wichita Falls Fire Department.
He too said he wanted to help his fellow Texans and they answered 911 high water rescue calls.
Hicks said while most people were thankful and appreciated the help, some did not want to leave their homes, so they had to leave them behind since they were not being evacuated.