By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Roger Heider folded up his cot at 5:30 Sunday morning so the church he was sleeping in could hold services. He returned around 10 p.m., after spending the day delivering hot meals to families hit by Hurricane Harvey near Houston.
Monday will be more of the same.
“We’ll get up at 6 and start it all over again,” Heider said.
Heider, of Bowling Green, is one of many Red Cross volunteers who responded to victims of Hurricane Harvey. This is the third national disaster he has responded to with the Red Cross, including wildfires in the San Diego area, and a hurricane in the Biloxi-Ocean Springs area.
“I was hoping there wouldn’t be a need for my involvement,” Heider said about watching the storm coverage as the hurricane approached Texas. But when Harvey drenched the region with unfathomable amounts of rain, Heider was ready to go.
“They were happy to have another warm body to go,” he said of the Red Cross.
Heider, a retired social studies teacher for Toledo Public Schools, was teamed up with Larry Coats, of Elmore, and the two started heading south in a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). Once they arrived in the Houston area, the two were charged with providing mobile feeding throughout neighborhoods, where residents were cleaning out their waterlogged homes.
As they drove through the Spring Creek area in Montgomery County, they saw patches of homes untouched by the flooding. “And then there were homes that were totally underwater,” Heider said.
“The water receded about two days ago,” he said. And in that time, the homeowners had pulled soaked appliances, carpeting, insulation and furniture out to the curbs.
Some had no electricity, and some had no safe water.
So, many welcome a hot meal. Heider and Coats served up that day’s menu of chicken and rice, corn, snacks and water. While serving up food, the volunteers took time to listen to the families’ hardships.
“It was heartbreaking,” Heider said. One woman was getting four meals for her family, when she told them her family’s situation. “She just broke down.” While her family was cleaning out their flood damaged home, someone broke into the home her family was renting and stole all their belongings.
A man shared with Heider his hardships of having open heart surgery in 2015, five feet of flood water in his home in 2016, and seven feet of water this year from Harvey.
And another woman in need of food had brand new appliances sitting at the curb. She explained that she had not yet had time to install them since last year’s flooding.
“It was just so devastating,” Heider said.
After dark, Heider and Coats returned to the church where they were staying, with nearly 120 cots set up about eight inches apart. Those were luxurious accommodations compared to their first night spent in the ERV in a Walmart parking lot as they made their way to Texas.
“The people seem genuinely grateful,” Heider said of the honks and waves he and Coats received in the Red Cross vehicle on their way to Houston.
Heider expected to collapse into his cot Sunday evening, and start out on the road with fresh hot meals on Monday. They will drive around flooded neighborhoods where people are trying to salvage what they can – until they run out of food, or out of people to feed.
“Until we feel that everybody has been satisfied,” he said.