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September 8, 2017

Warrenton church delivers relief supplies for Houston

Contributed Photo
Some of the supplies that Warrenton United Methodist Church members collected and delivered to Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas.
By Lynnette Esse
Jeffersonton

During the time of Hurricane Harvey’s descent on Houston, Warrenton United Methodist Church member Chuck Cromack kept in touch with his niece, visiting the city for an art show. She sent a Facebook link to her friends and family about the people stuck in their homes, asking for help, pleading for those with boats to rescue them.

“I wondered what we could do to help,” Mr. Cromack said. “Something was tugging at my heart. On Tuesday I called my wife, Norma, and told her that I think we needed to go to Texas. Since she was game, I started doing some research online to find out the best way to help.

“One name that kept coming up was Daniel Banguel, a motivational speaker and community leader in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Law firm, Tyler & Possa, and LEAP (Louisiana Educational Advancement Project) have partnered together to put on a donation drive to help their neighbors in Texas, with Daniel Banguel as their point of contact. Their plan was to fill two tractor trailers with donated items.

“After speaking with our lead Pastor Tim Tate on Wednesday morning, word was sent out to all our members via email requesting donations of non-perishable foods, contractor bags, heavy duty gloves, toiletries, laundry detergent, diapers, wipes, formula, and dog food.

“The response,” Mr. Cromack said, “has been moving, to say the least. I have been at this church for a long time and I have never seen anything like this. It has been incredible! The volume of donations has been 10 times more than we expected. In the beginning, we weren’t sure if we would fill the 8-by-14-foot Boy Scout trailer. As of Saturday noon, we could fill it twice.”

Aubrey Smith, head of the regular monthly food collection at WUMC, coordinated the donation of 64 cases of non-perishable food from Loudoun Hunger Relief, a food pantry in Leesburg, to add to the individual items that were collected. Volunteers were busy all day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday sorting, boxing, and loading donated items.

Church member Frank Ramey contacted Eric MacKenzie of Country Chevrolet, who agreed to loan a 2014 Ford F250 from Warrenton Select to haul the trailer loaded with 4,500 pounds of food and other necessities to Louisiana and back.

“I have been bowled away by everyone’s generosity and the fact that five people were willing to donate their time to make the 15-hour drive in two vehicles,” Pastor Tate said. “We asked for money to help pay for gas to and from Louisiana, and so far over $10,000 has been donated. This is exactly what our current sermon series is about - being Christ’s presence in the world and responding as we are called.”

Saturday at 8 p.m. Chuck and Norma Cromack and church member Michael Harper headed out, unsure of exactly where they were to hook up with Daniel Banguel. Fellow church members Joe and Teresa Amaya headed out earlier on Saturday with a loaded truck, planning to spend the night somewhere along the way.

“We are going by faith,” Mr. Cromack said.

The first of four flat tires happened just a few hours into their journey while on Interstate 81 near Roanoke. Fortunately, they had a spare tire for the trailer, but unfortunately, they had no wrench to change it. Using Michael’s AAA Membership, they were able to get help. And quite conveniently, a police officer pulled up behind them right away, offering protection while they waited and changed the tire.

The next morning around 10 o’clock they stopped for gas in Tennessee. When the woman at the next pump sneezed, Mr. Cromack said, “God bless you!” This started a conversation that further strengthened their faith. Mr. Cromack asked her husband, who looked like a biker, if he knew of a place where they could purchase a new tire for the trailer since they needed to replace their spare. He said, “I sold my trailer, but I have an extra tire at home. Meet me two exits down and I will bring it to you.”

A little leery, but again, going on faith, they headed in the right direction. On the way, another tire blew out! They unhooked the truck and continued toward the exit. They didn’t even have the guy’s name or phone number! True to his word, the guy showed up with not one, but two tires, the exact right size! Overjoyed and amazed, Mr. Cromack asked how much he wanted for them. He said, “Just watch out for motorcycles.”

On the way back to the trailer, they stopped at a Walmart and bought a wrench so they could change their own flat tires. Once changed, they went back to Walmart to have the other one mounted so they would have another spare.

Things were going great after that for a little while until the third tire blew out. That is when they finally realized that they had to remove some of the weight from the back of the trailer. It wasn’t just a matter of driving on old tires. They moved large heavy bags of dog food to the bed of the pickup, about 1,000 pounds’ worth. They were forced to use their only remaining spare tire.

One hundred miles later, in Alabama, it happened again, only this time the tire took the fender with it! Right away a pickup truck pulled up behind them and offered to help. The man had a mobile tire repair business and directed them to a shop just three miles down the road.

“I bought two new tires from them,” Mr. Cromack said. “Everyone was so nice. Michael noticed a sign in the window that said, ‘God is closer than you think.’ It was so cool!”

By that time, Joe and Teresa Amaya, who had already unloaded their supplies, headed back to remove some additional weight from the trailer, driving an extra 400 miles in the process. They arrived at their delivery destination at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday. Their 15-hour drive had taken more than 26 hours.

Daniel Banguel and three other people were there ready to help unload their contributions. They were amazed at the volume of items that had been collected in just a few short days. Two tractor-trailers full of relief supplies are due to be delivered to Houston on Thursday and again on September 16.

With only one hour of sleep at a rest stop, they headed home. Arriving safely and without further mishap, they were beyond tired, but full of joy after witnessing so many miracles.

“We wish to thank Country Chevrolet for the use of the pickup truck, Loudoun Hunger Relief for the generous food donation, and the members of WUMC and the community for their generous contributions and time sorting, boxing, and loading the donations,” Mr. Cromack said. “A special thank you goes out to Daniel Banguel, who helped to coordinate this trip on both ends.”

The writer is a Warrenton United Methodist Church member.

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