Texas communities have rallied together with Buckner International to help those affected by the record-breaking rains that caused heavy flooding throughout southern Louisiana, killing 13 people and causing more than $20 billion in damage to 110,000 homes in Baton Rouge and the surrounding counties.
By partnering with local churches and schools, Buckner has been able to deliver aid and shoes to communities that have needed it most.
During Labor Day weekend, Buckner shipped more than 3,500 items of aid worth nearly $50,000 from Mission, Texas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Area volunteers packed the items into a large trailer at the Buckner National Missions office Sept. 1 and drove to Baton Rouge, where they distributed the items through Istrouma Baptist Church. The supplies included 1,852 new shoes, 1,130 pieces of clothes, 480 food items and 95 blankets.
Buckner and the volunteers coordinated efforts with Hearts 4 Kids and through the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, which sought to mobilize Hispanic Baptists across the state to help their suffering neighbors in Louisiana.
“In times of desperate need, the church is called to exercise the ethical mandate of shining hope where darkness reigns,” said Javier Perez, director of Buckner National Missions. “Partnering with the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas and Hispanic churches in Louisiana has been a true honor. Because we worked together, people have hope for the future.”
The team from Mission worked in the heart of the affected area, picking up debris, helping repair a home and distributing the items from Buckner.
“We were trying to give people some hope,” said Gabriel Flores, family coach at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Peñitas. “People are in neighborhoods where there are piles of stuff that contain their belongings. We were honored to hear from one gentleman, ‘You guys came to fix my house, but you also made me laugh.’”
Flores described the situation as “heart-wrenching,” but was encouraged by the spirit of the families who were affected by the floods.
“If I were in their position, I’d probably be lost,” Flores said. “Their cars are underwater. Their trailer is underwater. I’d be at a loss of where to start. But these people are motivated. They want to move forward for their families. It gave me hope for them.”
Additionally, the peer leadership class at Allen High School in Allen, Texas, sought to help rebuild the athletic department of Runnels High School, a private school in Baton Rouge that lost all their athletic equipment in the floods.
“We heard about the floods and wanted to do something personal,” said Jennifer Clements, a Spanish and peer leadership teacher for Allen High School. “The second day of school, we told the kids about it, and they just took off with it. We’ve been able to Skype with Runnels and connect personally with them which helps put more of a purpose behind the fundraiser.”
Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls donated 296 pairs of athletic shoes and cleats for Runnels High School, assuring that every student at the high school can have a new pair of shoes.
“My heart always goes out to people that are affected by a disaster,” said Steve Watson, Buckner director of international humanitarian aid. “We don’t usually have cleats in our inventory, but every once in a while we do receive them as donations. It’s great when we are able to see God’s provision by having those shoes available at a time like this. I know Runnels has a long way to go to rebuild, and I hope this small gesture is an encouragement to them.”
The students at Allen High School were able to raise more than $2,000 and on Sept. 2, a coach and some of the students from Runnels High School traveled to Allen High School to accept the shoes and thank the students personally for their fundraising efforts.
“Baton Rouge and a lot of people lost their homes, and our whole school specifically got flooded,” said Ben Young, an algebra teacher and basketball coach for Runnels High School. “A lot of strangers are helping out and that’s what started here and now we have a relationship with Allen. It’s just cool to see the community bond together in Baton Rouge and in the surrounding areas.”