BY LEANN DILBECK & MELANIE WADE –
Polk County is once again rallying together to send much needed supplies to victims of a natural disaster. This time around, supplies are needed for our Texas neighbors following Hurricane Harvey, which has dumped historic amounts of rainfall on Houston, Baytown, Beaumont, and the hundreds of miles that stretch around and between some of south Texas’ largest populated areas. So far, near three dozen have been confirmed dead and thousands more have fled to shelters seeking refuge.
As Harvey came ashore on Friday, August 25, it had already been predicted to bring mass destruction. However, the flooding Harvey brought with him was more than anyone anticipated. After moving back into the Gulf of Mexico, Harvey turned and reared it’s ugly head once again to the Texas coast, bringing massive rainfall and destruction. The 50-plus inches recorded in parts of the area have been deemed as the largest amount of rain dumped anywhere in the Continental United States in recorded history.
Although the full effects of Harvey won’t be known for some time, there are already indicators of how wide-stretching Harvey’s destruction will reach. So far, a chemical plant near Houston has had multiple explosions due to floods affecting its refrigerant systems and with oil refineries being unable to operate their facilities, a massive pipeline that supplies the east coast has been closed until further notice, causing rising fuel prices across the country.
During it all, neighbors have reached out to neighbors, forming human chains to save each other, bringing boats in to take strangers to safety, and using social media to find others who are trapped with no way out. With so many in need, and having been in similar situations before, Polk County citizens are again stepping up to help.
Sheriff Scott Sawyer announced mid-week that his department would have a small trailer set up in the back parking lot of the courthouse beginning Thursday, August 31st, accepting donations for the Hurricane Harvey victims. That load left for Baytown, Texas, a city southeast of Houston, on Friday to the care of Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain, carrying 14 tons, or 28,000 pounds of supplies. “They really need it,” said Sheriff Sawyer. “I have had several people from Baytown call and thank me personally for the assistance that Polk County has sent them.”
A 53-foot semi trailer was secured by Gene Hendrix, who said a trucking firm out of Ashdown, Arkansas donated its use. That trailer was set up in Mena’s Walmart parking lot on Monday, September 4th, where it will remain until it’s filled up. The trailer’s donor will deliver the supplies to Baytown, Texas at that time.
Sheriff Sawyer said they are hoping to send 35-40 tons of supplies this week and he is thankful for all the help that has been received. “When Gene Hendrix and I first hatched the idea of the Polk County Peacemakers sending a trailer of supplies to Texas, we were worried about getting enough donations to fill a 26-foot trailer. We have had such an overwhelming response to the relief efforst that we filled the 26-foot trailer and are well on our way to filling a 53-foot trailer.”
Hendrix said the outpouring of Polk County has been “fantastic.” He said over $10,000 has been received in monetary donations in addition to supplies. “The community has really stepped up and is doing a great job.” Also in addition to what can be seen on the truck currently, there are eight pallets of water and three pallets of cleaning supplies to be loaded. “Cleaning supplies is what they are really asking for now,” said Hendrix.
The heart of Polk County is large and part of that can be attributed to the help received from others doing the county’s most trying times, especially the tornado that struck in April 2009. “People from all over came in and helped up so we’re going to try to do the same. I don’t know what we’re going to do when [Hurricane] Irma hits, but we are going to do our best,” said Hendrix.
Although receiving points in Texas have reached their capacity to store clothing, they are still asking for food, drinks, cleaning supplies, bedding, diapers, wipes, formula, and much more.
“The way our community pulls together to help others is just one of the reasons that I am extremely proud to call Polk County my home,” Sheriff Sawyer stated.
Items they are seeking are:
Blow up mattresses
Toiletries (full size)
Ready to eat meals
Trash bags(all sizes)
Zip lock bags ( all sizes)
Aluminum baking ware
Blankets, pillows, towels don’t need to be new just clean and in good condition.