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American Red Cross responding to multitude of disaster in one month
In the past month, the nation has been rocked with a number of catastrophic events beginning with the Boston Marathon bombing, the fertilizer plant explosion in West, a deadly tornado outbreak last week across North Texas and most recently the horrific tornado outbreak in Moore, Oklahoma.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of yesterday’s catastrophic storms in Moore,” said John Davis, executive director for American Red Cross in Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas. “No sooner have we made some headway in helping those families affected by last week’s tornados in Granbury and Cleburne, this horrible storm has hit Moore and created an even greater call for help.”
In the past month, the Texarkana Area and Lamar County Chapters, which support 12 counties in Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas, have been busy providing relief for victims of large apartment fires in Mount Pleasant and Jefferson, Texas, and handling a heavier than normal case load of local single-family fires. Volunteers from these chapters are also trained and deploy to national disasters.
The Red Cross in Northeast Texas deployed relief teams and equipment to support victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, and just last week deployed to Granbury to help those who lost their homes during that deadly tornado outbreak.
“We will continue to deliver hope and relief services to victims of disaster, no matter the magnitude of need. However, in times like this, when Red Cross relief teams and resources are stretched, it is extremely gracious when our community helps with monetary gifts and volunteer service,” said Davis. “We are under watch for additional severe weather in our area today, and for the time being must hold off on deploying additional resources to Moore. As soon as the severe weather has passed, we will assess our needs here and then begin plans to deploy to Moore.”
Today, the American Red Cross is asking for financial support. As the nation’s leading disaster responder, the Red Cross has tremendous experience in disaster relief which is why the organization seeks financial contributions to support families after tragedies such as these.
“Financial contributions allow Red Cross to purchase needed items from the area surrounding the disaster, and helps to boost the local economic base after a disaster. Additionally, it saves the necessary logistics and cost to warehouse and process donated goods,” said Davis.
You can help people affected by disasters like the recent tornados by making a gift online to American Red Cross Disaster Relief at redcross.org, in person or by mail to our offices at 821 Spruce Street, Texarkana, TX 75501 or 2673 North Main, Paris, TX 75460, by phone to 1-800-RED-Cross, 903.793.5602 or 737.4390, and finally by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 gift.
Those interested in becoming a Red Cross disaster volunteer should first complete their online volunteer application by visiting www.redcross.org/northeasttexas, or visit the Red Cross office to fill out an application.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.
For the first time in close to half a century, Louisa A. Cass’ headstone is back in Pride Cemetery.
“It’s kind of a forgotten cemetery,” Cass said. “I don’t think a lot of people knew this cemetery was in here.”
Even some living nearby on Pride Circle weren’t aware there was a cemetery tucked away in this corner of Johnson Woods.
“What was sad was people dumping out here – dumping limbs, dumping leaves from their yards,” Cass said. “That’s what’s aggravating.”
Pride Cemetery is a 1.3-acre plot of land. According to records, 39 people were buried there between 1843 and 1902.
“I didn’t even know there was a cemetery here, and I used to be a police officer in the 1970s,” said District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake, whose district includes Johnson Woods. “We walked around, and I was astonished. If it was my ancestors, I would want a nice area for them.”
Cass approached Drake about the cemetery. Drake talked to City Manager John Godwin, and a committee was formed with the sheriff, District 2 Councilwoman Sue Lancaster, Fire Chief Larry Wright, city Finance Director Gene Anderson, county Adult Probation Community Service Director Jimmy Don Nicholson, and J. B. and Doris Bankhead.
They decided to have a community cleanup. Work started at 8:30 a.m. with around 50 probationers and other volunteers and wrapped up mid-afternoon. Many came after finishing at the United Way’s Day of Caring house-painting event downtown. Jackie and Lisa Good of Good Tree Service donated their time and equipment.
“We’ve gotten about three-fourths of it done. We ran out of time and volunteers,” he said. “We cleaned up the front and decided we’d make it another day. It looks a lot better than it did when we started.”
In the process of cleaning, workers found the remains of several headstones buried in the undergrowth.
“There are a lot of people buried here who don’t need to be forgotten,” Cass said. “It shouldn’t be a place where people dump their tree limbs and their leaves and their grass clippings.”
Even his great-great-grandmother’s grave site went missing for some time. Doris Bankhead, Cass’ aunt, said her son Brad found the headstone one day while he was playing in the lot. She took the grave marker home to save it from further damage. The marker has now been returned to the cemetery.
“We have waited years for this,” she said. “I can’t believe it.”
Brad Bankhead went on to do a fair amount of work in the 1990s to rediscover the cemetery’s details. A sign was erected in 1973 to identify the lot as a cemetery, Doris Bankhead said, but it went missing within two weeks.
Once the cleanup is finished, the committee hopes to have a fence erected around the cemetery. A contractor has already stepped forward willing to donate labor to construct the fence.
Even after that, there will be a lot of work to do. Drake is working with the Lamar County Genealogical Society to have Pride designated a historic Texas cemetery. Most of the markers are missing, those that remain are broken. Some have been found in flowerbeds, and Drake said a few of the missing headstones may have been located for sale in Canton.
Drake, a teacher at Paris Junior High School, said she would like to see the school’s shop classes make crosses to mark graves with once the plots are identified.
Who takes care of things after that is still up in the air.
“The main thrust of this whole thing was get it cleaned up and make it presentable,” Wright said. “Once the cleanup’s done, we’re going to have to find someone to maintain it, either some Eagle Scouts or an association. At this point, we don’t know. At least we’ve got some time to talk about it and think about it.”
Colt Hatfield spends a lot of time in the water. Hardly surprising, as he works as a diver for a living. But most of his dives start about 200 feet above the ground.
The 29-year-old Pattonville resident is one of a handful of water tower divers whose job is to go into the water supply’s storage tanks to make sure the towers are safe and clean.
“They’re the coolest people I’ve ever met in my life – Spider-Man mixed with an idiot,” he said.
He works for Texas Tank Services in Tyler, which provides a range of services, including state inspections, cleanings, repairs, aircraft warning lights, fall protection system, sandblasting, panting and lead abatement. It’s certainly a niche market for any company.
“There are only 15 of us in the United States that do this,” he said. “There are only two or three in Texas.”
Hatfield originally went to dive school for offshore welding and pipeline work. Most of the guys in the class were bulkier than his 5-foot-8-inch, 165-pound frame. His slender build made him an ideal candidate for water tower diving, and Texas Tank Services offered him a job a month before graduation. That was a year ago. Hatfield said many only last a couple of weeks.
“You tell a guy he’s got to climb to the top of a tower, take off all his clothes and his fall protection, then put on another set of clothes and drag up that dive helmet, a lot of them say, ‘I don’t want to do this,’” he said. “It’s an interesting job. People either got it or they don’t.”
A typical week has Hatfield leaving at 3 a.m. Monday to drive to Tyler. Their work for the week takes them all over the state before returning to Tyler about 8 p.m. Friday. Which means he doesn’t get to see his wife or 4-year-old son much.
“They say Navy SEALs are gone 200 days a year. We’re gone about 265,” he said. “You miss a lot, but at least when you come home, there’s always something new they’ve learned. And I’m giving him a better life.”
A three-man crew travels with all their gear on a trailer. At the work site, one takes a rope and pulley up top to begin hoisting up equipment. The other two begin the exterior inspection. To get ready for the interior inspection, the diver has to strip and put on a dry suit – a fully enclosed diving outfit that keeps anything on the diver’s body from getting into the water system. The diver is also sprayed with a disinfectant to make sure there’s nothing on the suit. The suit is not all that different than antique diving outfits. The helmet alone weighs about 30 pounds.
In the world of water tower maintenance, diving is a relatively new development, Hatfield said. That makes the field about 20 years old. But it’s faster than pumping all the water out and looking over the tank that way. The crew can complete an inspection and cleaning in a matter of hours where draining the tank and doing the work could take days.
“We can take all the dirt and all the sediment out of there without losing all that water,” he said.
While the space is smaller than, say a lake or ocean, water tower divers go just as deep as their offshore counterparts, often armed with nothing more than a flashlight to see by.
“There are certain dives, the longer you stay down there, the longer you have to take coming back up so you don’t get the bends,” Hatfield said. “That’s what makes this job so dangerous. Not only are you having to dive 120, 130 feet, you’re having to climb and pull your dive hat and 300 feet of umbilical so you can breathe.”
Despite the labor and dangers, he hasn’t looked back since strapping on the first dry suit. As a water tower diver, Hatfield has gotten to see just about every corner of his home state.
“I get to see Texas from 200 feet,” he said. “Plus, I get to see what’s in my water supply.”
Dr. Colton Wicks and wife, Dr. Katie Wicks were the recipients of the first awarded BIG (Building Improvement Grant) check for their historic preservation efforts at their Paris Optical office downtown – 15 E. Plaza.
The Building Improvement Grant was made possible by the efforts of the Paris Main Street program, the Historic Preservation Committee, and a large donation by the Paris Downtown Association.
The Wicks updated the storefront of their office with ‘true to history’ style improvements. The building, which now houses Paris Optical, is an early 20th century structure that was the original home of the American National Bank.
“We are proud to be receiving this, and would like to thank Paris Main Street and the Historic Preservation Committee,” stated Dr. Colton Wicks. ”I had no idea what the original building looked like. It was really neat to see the historical architecture and learn about the history of our building.”
“Cheri Bedford (director of Paris Main Street) helped make the process very easy for us,” he continued.
Main Street, HPC and City officials were invited to Paris Optical last week for the presentation of the check to the Wicks, while introducing the new modifications to the public.
The Main Street BIG check was a 50/50 matching grant in the amount of $5000, and the Historical Preservation Committee presented the Facade Grant check for $2500.
After winning Anita Perry’s First Lady Texas Treasure Award for our preservation efforts, downtown and great community, it is safe to say that Paris has one of the best downtowns in Texas. Without the efforts of people like the Wicks and other downtown business and home owners, as well as the Historical Preservation Committee and the Paris Main Street program, we wouldn’t have the downtown that we do.
A volunteer group praying for area students is looking for more people willing to bow their heads.
“I think the message has got to go out that we need more prayers for the students we’ve got coming in with the seniors going out,” Kay Holleman said at a recent meeting of the committee that coordinates the prayer effort.
There are currently 1,360 people praying for 1,473 students in North Lamar, Paris, Chisum and Roxton – including all the juniors and seniors and most of the sophomore. Many volunteers are praying for more than one student. Now the group is looking for new volunteers and seeing if they can persuade more to take on an additional student.
They have about 40 church and school contacts they work with to promote the effort and attract new volunteer prayers.
“I’m going to start all over. I’m going back to challenge them to take up another name,” Marion Parker said. This is a critical situation for our community, that we intercede on behalf of these kids.”
Mike Long, a veteran educator and one of the effort’s organizers, noted a girl in class who seemed to be having a rough time. She wasn’t being prayed for at the time.
“The Lord provided a new prayer who took this little girl,” he said. “This has been a blessing to her life already.”
He mentioned another student who had moved away to South Texas who recently came back. The first time he saw Long, the student didn’t ask how he was or what he had been doing. Instead he asked if the volunteer who had been praying for him still was.
“I said, ‘He sure is,’” Long said. “He said, ‘Good. Tell him not to stop.’”
It all started in March 2011 with six volunteers. By that summer, they had 100 volunteers.
“Some of those kids have been prayed for over 700 times,” Long said. “All our hearts are breaking for kids. They’ve got so much going on.”
Each volunteer gets a card that serves as a reminder to pray. They place it somewhere to keep that reminder in front of them — sun visors, fruit bowls, refrigerators, wallets.
It’s not a mentor program like Big Brothers Big Sisters. The prayers know little about the students they bow their heads for.
“I thank you, Lord. I thank you for blessing us with this burden,” Long said in a closing prayer at the meeting. “We celebrate these 700 days of your faithfulness.”