When we walked the neighborhoods of Port Arthur on Tuesday afternoon, we met a wonderful man and his sweet daughter, Donna. In bragging about his talented daughter, he mentioned she was a middle school principal. Well, that sounded GREAT to us, because on this deployment, we had a large number of youth and children's quilts, and we had been praying for a school to allow us to serve them. Donna is the sixth grade principal at a Port Arthur middle school (Lincoln Middle), and she arranged quickly and efficiently for us to deliver over 600 quilts to the 6-8th grade students at LMS on Thursday afternoon, as well as 80+ quilts to the faculty and staff members. So, we spent a large part of Wednesday morning setting aside the 700 quilts necessary for LMS students and staff, so that we would make sure that we didn't accidentally give the quilts away in our neighborhood walks in the afternoon. We sorted everything from "youthful" lap quilts to "bright" twin quilts, plus all the fleece and afghans that were appropriately sized for middle school kids. Then we counted when we thought we had enough...and doubled the pile. 600 quilts is HUGE.
Something that you may not realize is how many families are still living in hotels, MONTHS after the storm. On Tuesday night, while Dennis and I were at Encounter Church (see Day One for details), the other team members were contacting area hotels and finding out how many families we could serve. One area hotel had over 40 families, and so we bagged quilts by room with the appropriate distribution of quilts for the men, women, and children in each family unit. I cannot stress how fantastic the hotel staff are in assisting with this distribution. They protect hotel resident privacy, but allow us to gift appropriate quilts. "Family 1" is all we know, and they put the bag in their room. What a blessing.
And those yellow sheets? We include those with every quilt. They give the history of Quilts of Compassion, and the information about the organization (address/phone). It's important because often the family is still so shell-shocked from the disaster that all the service organizations just blur together. Later, when they think, "Who were those people?" they can look at the information in their leisure.
Another community hard hit by the flooding was the small town of Sour Lake, TX. We actually ended up staying in Winnie because one of Sour Lake's sweet residents that DIDN'T flood contacted Quilts of Compassion and asked us to come there. We had planned an "event" in Sour Lake that didn't work out, but God had a better plan. We drove up on Wednesday afternoon, and began walking the neighborhoods. The other three vehicles went to Pinewood, but Dennis and I went to Countrywood Estates, a neighborhood that reminded me of my parents' neighborhood.
The first home we visited had a camper in the driveway, and mother/daughter pair Lynette and Ashley sitting out front. We explained our purpose, gave their families quilts and heard their story, then told them that we were going to be in the neighborhood all afternoon. They asked if they could snap our picture and put it on their neighborhood Facebook page to "forewarn" the residents that we were coming. We thought that was a great idea. One thing that never fails to surprise me is that unscrupulous people take advantage of hurting people in crisis. This is why we wear a QOC uniform, including name badges and hats, so that we present a professional appearance and can give the residents comfort without apprehension.
Then an awesome thing happened. We began our "normal" distribution in the neighborhood, but Lynette quickly caught up with us in her car. She asked where we'd been (not far), and said the "Facebook page is blowing up with folks wanting to make sure they get a quilt before we leave!" She then proceeded to escort us around the neighborhood, introducing us to her neighbors, and assisting our deliveries. After a few minutes, Lynette handed us off to another neighbor, who then did the same thing! It was lovely to see how well they all loved each other. Family after family told the story of how they'd never really known their neighbors until the flood, and now they are all one big family. Having an escort meant it was easier than ever to get great pictures of people who loved their quilts.
|At one point, several cars were behind us on the road, and Dennis thought he was causing a traffic jam. It turned out we WERE the traffic jam! Folks came to find us to get a quilt.|
We finished off our awesome day with dinner as a TEAM of eight, recapping the Lord's goodness and sharing flood stories and pictures over some delicious Cajun food. We parted for the night, anticipating an amazing afternoon at Lincoln Middle School the following day. We were not wrong.