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Shelter helps Kirbyville flood victims


In the late hours into early morning, April 9-10, a large storm blew across Southeast Texas, bringing a reported 17.5 inches of rainfall.

“I was leaving a revival on that Tuesday night with my kids when lightning struck right next to my car and the rain started,” Sheree Eddings said.

Eddings was displaced from her home by flood waters and took shelter at First Assembly of God Church in Kirbyville.

“We came back to the church and stayed in a classroom until I thought it blew over,” Eddings said. “My dad called me and said a tornado was coming through close to where we were so we could not do anything else.”

Volunteers cook for people displaced by floods at First Assembly of God Church in Kirbyville. UP photo by Josiah Boyd

After the tornado passed, Eddings went home, only to be awakened early the next morning by a phone call.

“Around 5:30 in the morning, my dad called me again asking for my keys and saying I needed to get the boys and get out.” Eddings said. “By the time he got there we were wading in water up to our hips in my driveway.

“We loaded up everything we could carry out of my house into a boat. I loaded up my two sons with their Pawpaw in the front and paddled down my driveway to my sister.”

Rescue efforts began early Wednesday morning and with much of the town underwater, residents began looking for somewhere to take shelter.

“We were up bright and early that morning,” Tina Miller, First Assembly of God Church secretary, said. “As many church members that could get out of their homes showed up and started cooking.”

Miller said the church opened its doors to the displaced and first responders.

“We had about 25 people and 12 dogs at the church doors that morning needing a place to stay and something to eat,” Miller said. “The church members just started cooking anything and everything we had.”

By noon, the community had heard about the makeshift shelter at the church, Miller said, and began to make their way there.

“At about noon, the local Fire Chief Greg Ellis called me and said he had a bus of another 25 or so people needing somewhere to stay,” Miller said. “I called pastor Monclova and he said, ‘Let's make it happen.’”

The church volunteers took care of the displaced before Red Cross trucks arrived at the facility.

“The Red Cross showed up the same day and brought so many supplies from cots to toiletries,” Sheron Dickson, volunteer church member, said.

The Red Cross teamed up with church members, volunteers, and the Salvation Army to set up a facility that could adequately supply food and shelter for everyone.

“We really worked together super well,” Miller said. “We may not have seen eye to eye on every procedural issue, but all three groups came together and made it work.

“We had about 57 people stay at the shelter that first Wednesday night. We had well over that number come in for help or just something to eat as well.”

As of April 30, the facility still housed two families, and Miller said they expect to house them for the next several weeks at least.

Glenn Haager, Red Cross mass care manager, said the organization brought in trailers with supplies.

“We came and set up cots and brought comfort items to these people who are going through something very traumatizing and difficult,” he said. “We worked closely with church members and the community, as well as the Salvation army who did all of the cooking and providing of meals for us and the displaced throughout this ordeal.”

The church posted appeals for help on social media. Dickson said the response was positive.

“We would put our needs out on Facebook and other social media, and we got back a truly ‘God amount’ of stuff,” she said. “From diapers to donuts, the community brought us anything we could think of.”

“We had people bringing us fresh produce and fresh eggs, Corey Crenshaw had Courville’s and Juan's Mexican Food from Lumberton cater food for multiple days, and Jenny’s fried chicken and other local restaurants sent food as well.  Petco even donated dog kennels and dog food so people could bring their pets.”

“We had donations from so many people and local businesses throughout the community and it is truly a beautiful thing to see people help one another like this.”

Category: News