Northland steps up to help Texas
The Northland's drive to help people upended by massive flooding along the Texas Gulf Coast is in full swing. "They're all affected -- together," said Mike Letica of Duluth. "They have no place to go and only the clothes on their backs. I thought...
The Northland's drive to help people upended by massive flooding along the Texas Gulf Coast is in full swing.
"They're all affected - together," said Mike Letica of Duluth. "They have no place to go and only the clothes on their backs. I thought, 'What can I do?' When you have a community like Duluth, you can make an impact."
As the American Red Cross of Northern Minnesota deployed volunteers in small teams to the disastrous flooding in Houston, caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, the local businessman this week mounted a "Prayers for Texas" drive aimed at reaching Liberty County outside Houston.
Prayers for Texas will culminate with a drop-off collection event today from noon to 7 p.m. in the Denfeld High School parking lot off Grand Avenue in West Duluth.
After days of grassroots collections at local markets already, Letica continues to ask for bottled water, clothes, blankets, inflatable mattresses, children's games/activity books/crayons, and monetary gifts in a final push for donations.
Letica, 55, is a longtime Curtis Oil employee and now entrepreneur who said he's been working both ends of the relief effort here and in Texas in order to arrange for delivery.
He's collected financial donations as large as $2,000 as well as pallets of bottled water. He and friends will depart Duluth on Friday in a convoy of trucks bound for a commercial lot in the county northeast of Houston, where Letica has arranged with locals to distribute the needed goods.
"I chose a smaller community, Liberty County, that's not getting a lot of attention," Letica said. "I try to put myself in their position - what would I want somebody to do for me?"
Meanwhile, the local American Red Cross chapter deployed eight people over the past several days - including a pair of registered nurses and an emergency response vehicle (ERV) with volunteer specialists in mass feeding operations.
The volunteers come from around the Northland, said Dan Williams, the local American Red Cross executive director whose agency is gearing up for a protracted recovery by anticipating an influx of new volunteers.
"We're going to be doing sheltering and feeding for months," he said. "This is going to be a long haul."
Red Cross volunteers typically deploy for two weeks at a time, but Williams guessed they'd sign on for even longer given the dire circumstances.
Ultimately, though, "People are going to need to be replaced," he said.
There are other waves of volunteers in wait locally - and more to train.
"We'll get them trained, so that they're helpful," Williams said. "There will be plenty of opportunity to help out there and on the homefront."
Williams described the local efforts in Texas, where one experienced volunteer arrived at Toyota Center, where the Houston Rockets play, and helped to convert it to a shelter. The pair of local nurses joined the effort at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, which has been transformed into an 8,500-person mega-shelter where people fleeing crisis arrived without their prescriptions, canes or walkers, eyeglasses and more.
"They're getting their immediate needs met," Williams said of a shelter effort with more than 32,000 people tucked into 230-plus Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas.
Midweek marked a transition point in the relief effort, said Williams, who described military-style ready-to-eat meals and granola bars giving way to more hot meals.
To help perpetuate that effort, the local ERV will begin teaming up with a regular Red Cross partner, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, at its mobile food production facilities. The local ERV team will load up with meals to be transported to people housed in some of the smaller shelters. More than half of all Red Cross ERVs from around the country have converged on Houston, some 200 total, Williams said.
Once he's set up, Letica said his relief outpost will be cooking and serving bratwurst donated by Stokke's Adolph Store, which also provided a grill to the cause.
Letica figured to make Texas by Sunday. And when the distribution is done: "We'll drive right back," he said.
Ways to help
• Go to www.redcross.org or www.helpsalvationarmy.org
• Text Harvey to 90999 to donate $10
• Mail or bring monetary donations to the local Red Cross office at 2524 Maple Grove Road, Duluth, MN 55811
• If you or your organization are working to help those affected by the flooding in Texas and Louisiana, email the information to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post it on the News Tribune website.
Enbridge donates to relief efforts
Enbridge announced Wednesday that it is donating a total of $225,000 to the American Red Cross and the United Way to help communities affected by flooding in Texas.
The company also will match employee donations, up to $2,500 per person.
Enbridge's Houston offices have been closed because of the flooding, while its gas control and offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico have continued to operate.
Minnesota Power crews on standby
Minnesota Power has had crews on standby since last weekend. They've yet to be mobilized into the fray, spokeswoman Amy Rutledge said Wednesday - and may not be.
"The company has made an offer of 20 lineworkers and five support personnel," she said. "Our supervisors don't expect a call for them to travel to Texas until floods recede to make repairs possible, and maybe not even then because closer utilities also have made crews available."