By Carissa Lucas ’10

After Tropical Storm Hermine battered the central Texas area Sept. 7 and 8, business and home owners faced the daunting task of cleaning up the damages the storm left behind. Students and faculty rallied to help the community get back on its feet.
Downtown Belton was an area hit particularly hard by the heavy rains and flooding. Several businesses had more than three feet of standing water before the rains finally let up. Many businesses had thousands of dollars worth of damages, forcing them to close shop for a number of weeks as they made repairs.

The Scott & White Hospice Thrift Store located on Central Avenue in Belton had about 48 inches of water wash through it, according to Amy Mesecke, a staff member at the thrift store.

“We had a total store loss. It took us about five days to get everything out and spray it down and get it cleaned,” Mesecke said.

There was so much damage in the thrift store that Mesecke estimated the store wouldn’t be up and fully operational for at least another month.

Belton wasn’t the only town affected by the massive amounts of water. Salado, Nolanville, Temple, and Holland also reported major damages from the flooding. Holland was without water for days, and homeowners in Salado were left with large amounts of mud and debris to be cleaned up.

With so much devastation so close to home, many University of Mary Hardin-Baylor students saw an opportunity to serve their community by helping with the cleanup efforts.

Senior international business major Tommy Wilson, who also serves as student body president, was quick to lend a hand with the cleanup efforts. Together with Dr. Shawn Shannon, BSM director, he coordinated two days of volunteering for students who were interested Sept. 17 and 18.

“We gave a lot of help as far as cleaning and repairing, and we also built relationships,” Wilson said.

Wilson hoped students would understand the importance of reaching out to area residents.

“Some believe that UMHB and Belton are two different entities,” he said. “To me, being a part of one means being a part of the other. This demonstrates in a physical way that we want to be a part of the community—that we’re fellow Beltonians.”

Wilson, who took a year off of college in 2008 to serve in a church overseas, pointed out that it is often easy to forget there is a mission field right outside our front door.

“We are called to be the body of Christ locally, just as we have been doing in foreign countries. Evangelism is spoken both through words and actions. What we are doing is not just community service; it’s sharing Christ through our actions,” Wilson said.

Students and faculty members who turned out for the first day of volunteering were sent to businesses in downtown Belton, to the First Assembly of God Church in Belton, and to First Baptist Church of Salado to assist homeowners in that community.

According to the official flood damage report issued by the Village of Salado, 68 homes were damaged by the floods, with 31 homes reporting major damage caused by two or more feet of water inside.

“All of the churches in Salado cooperated together to provide meals, water, equipment, housing, and man-power to the families affected by the flooding,” Danny Davis, associate pastor of missions at First Baptist Church of Salado, said. “The Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief Teams came from all over Central Texas and beyond to provide laundry facilities and clean-up teams. Several churches outside of Salado, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross all provided additional assistance.”

Davis said he was blown away by amount of support received from the UMHB community.

“Many students from the general student body came to help all throughout the cleanup process,” he said, adding that the athletic department helped a great deal by sending many student athletes to lend a hand.

“The football team, softball team, tennis teams, and golf teams all sent team members down to assist. The softball and baseball teams helped unload and distribute water. The baseball team and men’s soccer team both cancelled practice one day to come and help with cleanup efforts. Even after our cleanup efforts were completed, we continued to receive calls from UMHB student organizations, athletic teams, and individual students wanting to help in any way possible.”

Local businesses and homeowners were also happy to have the extra hands for all the work they needed done. Even as cleanup was still taking place at the thrift store in Belton, donations were already arriving.

“You feel overwhelmed when you have so much to do. We have two trailers full of donations, so it’s great to have the extra help to keep us going,” Mesecke said.

“We have volunteers that come on a regular basis, but this in the first time we’ve had such a large group come out and help at one time,” Mesecke said. “It definitely lifts your spirits.”

First-hand account: UMHB’s Maintenance Services Supervisor David Marek’s Salado home was among those damaged in the storms. His wife, Susie ’96, shares the family’s story.