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Buckner weathers Dolly; Help sought for colonias

July 25th, 2008 at 11:03 am

MISSION – Buckner Children and Family Services’ Rio Grande Children’s Home fared well through Hurricane Dolly, suffering only a blackout.

But, according to Buckner staff based in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, many residents in colonias where Buckner works throughout the region suffered considerable damage and are left with immediate needs.

“The 27 children at the [children’s] home are safe, and no one needed to be evacuated,” said Michelle Harris, director of residential and transitional ministries at Buckner. “The tragedy, though, is that a lot of people in the region lost everything they own.”

Dexton Shores, director of Ministry Development for Buckner in Mexico and the Border, said many sections of the two main highways in the Valley are flooded and the Department of Public Safety is not letting people drive through a lot of it.

“We have Buckner staff driving through the colonias closest to their homes to see what they can do. They’ve discovered that many people are flooded out, many have lost their roofs and the rain has destroyed all their belongings,” Shores said.

Along with Buckner staff, four Texas Baptist Men feeding teams are serving in the Rio Grande Valley and Baptist General Convention of Texas staff members are in contact with many of the churches in the area. Staff members with the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association also are assessing the situation. Baptist Child and Family Services has 70 staff members working in the region.

Buckner mission coordinator Cheyenne Solis reported Thursday that colonias he visited in Donna and Progreso experienced “much damage with flooded streets, water inside houses, cars, broken windows and extreme roof damage.”

According to Solis, many families living in colonias are trapped and unable to leave to get basic needs, such as food, water and hygiene products.

“These are just some of the needs for all of the colonias stateside and in Mexico,” he said. “Many residents are without electricity.”

Jorge Zapata, Buckner colonia program director, said the floodwaters “got close, within 1/2 inch” of the bottom of the door of his home, “but thankfully none of it came inside the house.” Zapata lives in La Feria, where the mayor declared the city a disaster area due to flooding.

Shores said there is a need for financial support to provide clothes, food, building materials, and furniture. He added that as damage is further assessed, Buckner will seek additional help from churches and mission groups to repair damage in the colonias.

Albert Reyes, president of Buckner Children and Family Services, said the ministry is relying on churches and individuals to respond the needs of colonias residents.

“Our churches have been faithful through the years to work alongside Buckner to help so many people in need in the valley and we need those partners now more than ever,” he said.

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