The Early Response Team based at the Sinton First United Methodist Church was sent to three areas in November: Ingleside on the Bay, Rockport, and Beeville TX. We tore down damaged fences, trimmed trees, raked, bagged, and hauled away debris, tarped a trailer roof, gutted plywood ceilings and bagged fiberglass insulation, and separated and cleaned up steel roofing. Our mission was to be a caring Christian presence in the aftermath of disaster and to put the people affected before the tasks at hand.

The hurricane survivors shared stories of feeling hopeless, getting on lists for help, then waiting and waiting, being homeless, having possessions stolen, dealing with depression and stressed out children, having a child with asthma living with mold, having little or no insurance, having few tools or resources to help themselves, feeling like no one cared, and facing a long recovery. Tears were shed during many of the stories and hugs were given frequently. One said, “Some days, you’re fine. Other days, you’re a basket case.”

Families also shared stories of joy. There were smiles on their faces when the Coker UMC ERT arrived. They were friendly, open, and ready to work with us. Words of appreciation for our service were expressed throughout each work day. They were thankful they had homes to return to while others lived in hotels or with family members because their homes were total losses. A grandmother was excited that her grandkids could play safely in her yard again. Young children watched in fascination as a huge crane removed mountains of trash from their street and deposited it in a dumpster that hauled it away. They were astounded by the difference in their homes and yards at the end of the day. We saw local church members bring water, Thanksgiving dinners, new shoes, and new coats for one family while we were there. We left the families in good spirits with renewed hope for the future.

The Coker Early Response Team debriefed nightly. We enjoyed working together as a trained team, receiving hugs and thanks from the families we aided, seeing progress when we left a site for the day, working with volunteers from out of state (Sam & Sue from Colorado joined our team day 2 & 3), working in overcast weather with occasional breezes and a few sprinkles, receiving no injuries on the job, and feeling spiritually and financially supported by Coker UMC.