By Pat Shannan -
When business partners Tara Woods and Kenna Stephenson, both young mothers in their 30s, saw smoke rising from burning homes in the hills above their town of Magnolia, Texas, they canceled their plan for a Labor Day yard sale. Instead, they hauled their goods to a local high school and helped organize a volunteer group to aid active firefighters, as well as the 8,000 evacuees who were compelled to sleep at the high school.
They weren’t the only ones to lend a helping hand. Paula Bowman issued a plea on Internet social networking site Facebook.com, and before the day was over they saw 300 pet cage carriers delivered to the command center. At the same time, as manpower and goods poured in, the school’s vocational building and local firehouses began to look like grocery store warehouses with stacked cases of bottled water, energy drinks, food bars, meat, packaged lunches, bread and clothes for those that were now homeless. Similarly, a mobile kitchen appeared, and the team began delivering meals to the policemen working the streets and firefighters in the smoky hills. An 18-wheel shower truck pulled in next, and then a water truck with 35,000 gallons for support. A tractor-trailer truck followed shortly thereafter, along with a huge HEB Grocery vehicle carrying $175,000 worth of donated food.
“There was never a need that went unmet,” says Ms. Bowman. “Together, we were mighty.”
The team worked around the clock, and their effort lasted eight days. Nobody went home to sleep before another shift showed up to fill in. Red Cross and Salvation Army troops were amazed, and quickly realized that their efforts could be best spent elsewhere.
Instead of FEMA, it was the C-4 Impact Team from California that worked closely and congenially with Team-212. This federally organized group is pulled together whenever necessary for any kind of disaster, and this time included firefighters from North Carolina, California and Alaska. These volunteers who make themselves available are paid nothing extra for their efforts.
Bakersfield firefighter Tony Martinez told AFP: “In 25 years, I never saw a community pull together with such organization without waiting for us. We wanted for nothing. What they didn’t have on hand that we might need, we had within an hour. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Martinez said Ms. Woods told him: “You’ve never been to Texas then. This is what we do around here.”