By Linda Kor
The flooding crisis in Texas has left many people wanting to help, whether by donating food, supplies, money or sending prayers, but five local men decided to go a step further and donate their time and energy to the effort.
Derick Ortiz, Cristian Epps, Chase Carlson, Brian Carpenter and Tanner Reidhead came together, using their own money and taking time away from work and family, to help those in Texas struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Reidhead is the only one who doesn’t work for the Snowflake/Taylor Police Department; Ortiz is a sergeant, Epps is a detective, Carlson is a reserve officer and Carpenter is a volunteer with the department.
According to STPD Administrative Assistant Kimberley Willis, the men collected more than $3,000 in cash and an entire U-Haul of supplies was donated by area residents before they left on their journey Aug. 31. In addition to supplies, Big 5 Sporting Goods in Show Low provided several heavy duty rafts at steeply discounted prices since it was unable to get a donation approved by its corporate office in time for the trip and Metal Mayhem of Snowflake donated the U-Haul free of charge. In addition, Compass Medical Center in Snowflake donated medical supplies.
The men headed out Aug. 31 on a four-day journey and had no problem finding people in need once they arrived. “They made it to Houston after driving 10 hours straight and came across some Texas DPS (Department of Public Safety) officers at a gas station. When they learned that they carried supplies, the DPS officers had them follow them to Beaumont, where the residents had just gained access to their homes the night before,” explained Willis.
It was there that the men learned that although supplies had been received in the urban areas, many of the outlying rural areas hadn’t received anything and the people there were very grateful for what was brought. According to Willis, the residents were especially grateful for diapers and wipes, which made up a large portion of the items donated by residents of Snowflake and Taylor.
The men traveled on to Bridge City, about 100 miles east of Houston, where they heard about a couple who needed their help. Steven and Brittney Hilton are law enforcement officers and had ignored their own flooded home while they remained on duty to help others. Willis said that the couple had only returned home to change clothes and had to wade through waist deep water to reach the closet.
“The flooding had started to recede when they got there, so the guys worked around the clock to demo all the damage and wet drywall,” said Willis. While they were helping the Hiltons, the men were housed at the Nederland Police Department.
Willis said the men reported that there is still a huge mess to be dealt with in Texas and the circumstances are still very chaotic.
“It was a really remarkable response from the community in a short period of time. The community came out in droves and made such a difference,” she noted.
The men returned home to their families on Sept. 4, no doubt grateful for the community that they serve and the support they received.