Relief is family project on Hwy 6
By John Howell
Panola County entered its second week of collecting relief supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims with one of the more conspicuous collections points in the Fred’s parking lot on Highway 6 East.
That’s where you see Bob Shepard’s daughters and their friends holding hand-lettered “Harvey Relief” and “Pray for Texas” signs at roadside, accepting donations under a tent canopy and loading the goods into a van trailer parked nearby. Once the trailer has been fully loaded, Shepard will pull the trailer to Vidor, Texas, a small town east of Beaumont where he has made contact with the pastor of Turning Point Church, the unloading destination.
“He told me, ‘We haven’t even seen the Red Cross,’” Shepard said, citing the problems small towns encounter when they are near catastrophes in big metropolitan areas that attract the initial media attention and relief efforts.
The list of supplies needed is lengthy, and collection efforts target what is most needed.
“We don’t want to take something they don’t need,” Shepard said.
Items needed include bottled water, cardboard boxes, canned goods and other non-perishable food items, toothbrushes, toothpaste, school supplies, bar soap, toilet paper, Kleenex, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, wipes, feminine hygiene products and baby products — diapers, bottles, formula and new baby blankets, according to a list compiled by Shepard’s daughters and their friends. Also new bedding — pillows, sheets, sleeping bags and air mattresses. Also new socks and underwear in original packaging.
Used clothing is discouraged because much of it is unsuitable and it takes up space in transit that could be used for more essential items. Shepard said that he recalls seeing donated clothing discarded in piles in parking lots after Hurricane Katrina where he got his initial introduction to hurricane devastation in 2005.
That year, Shepard made four trips to the coast with trailers of donated supplies. He said the experience drained him, and he told his daughters he couldn’t do it again. That’s when they organized the collection drive that motorists see on Highway 6.
“I told them if they would get it together I would get it down there,” he said.
In addition to the relief supplies, the Harvey relief project has collected enough money to purchase a used Chevy Suburban that will be delivered, “title and everything,” Shepard said, to a family with five children that they have located who lost everything, including their two cars, with no insurance.
The family hopes to have the Harvey Relief trailer loaded by Saturday. Shepard said he will bring another trailer, but he needs help with delivery.
“If there’s anybody who has a big truck that can pull a load, we’d like the help,” he said.
Contact Shepard at 662-934-4104.