As people are gearing up for Thanksgiving, many families impacted by last month’s flooding are still trying to put their lives back together.The floods severely damaged more than 600 homes and many of those people still don’t have a permanent place to stay.
But residents came together Sunday night to provide some flood victims with a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to escape the cold temperatures, if only for a few hours.
The event was organized by Dove Springs resident Robert Kibbie and Pastor Richard Villarreal with The Springs Community Church. Overall, 120 meals were served. Volunteers also delivered 60 meals to people who were not able to attend the actual event.
Rachceda King and her family attended the dinner. They lost everything in the floods. On that morning, King and her husband, Tyrone, had left early for their jobs as bus drivers.
“When we left out the grounds were clear. It was raining but it wasn’t raining real hard. But it was raining," King remembers.
Just over half an hour later, the waters had rose so high her two children, Emmanuel, 9, and Victoria, 6, had to climb to the roof of their duplex with their great-grandmother and other family members. King wasn’t able to get to them until after one in the afternoon.
“It was just devastating news for us because we couldn’t get to our family quick enough," she says.
The Kings stayed in the shelter at the Dove Springs Recreation Center for three weeks, which King says was uncomfortable, but they adapted to the situation.
“It was trying, however, we still made it through. We stayed constantly positive," King says.
Last week, they moved into a new apartment complex on MLK Boulevard. Her children have had to transfer to a new school. On top of everything, she and her husband have both been laid off and are now looking for work.
“Our boss ... he guaranteed we’d have a job when all this is said is done and my husband went back to work and he didn’t allow us to have our jobs back. So we’re at that state right now. We’re taking one day at a time," she says.
But last night, King and her family were able to be distracted from the struggles at home and enjoy a hot meal at the Chateau Village Club House in Onion Creek. 52 turkeys were donated by Michael Cargill with Central Texas Gun Works, and volunteers cooked the sides, which included everything from green bean casserole, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and rows of desserts.
They also gave away heaters and blankets to families who still don’t have heat. Villarreal says he realized the need when they went door-to-door Saturday, telling people about the Thanksgiving dinner.
“I would go in these houses and they’re stripped bare. There’s no insulation, there’s no sheet rock and families are there," he says. As he walked through the neighborhood, it was apparent how much people needed a distraction.
“Several families broke down because they said I didn’t think we were going to have a Thanksgiving. And this is special because we didn’t think anything was going to be on the table. And families just broke down because someone was there who cared," Villarreal says.
Luz Escoto and her husband, Lee Roman, also attended the dinner because their home is severely damaged and their heaters were washed away in the floods.
“My little house is chaos," Escoto says, clutching a space heater under her arm. "So I cannot cook. So I said let's go eat something, a real meal. We are eating not very good anymore. But thank goodness we have a great meal. It was very thoughtful."
But while nights like last night provide a few hours of distraction, many families face an uphill battle as they try to rebuild their lives. On Friday, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced low-interest Federal disaster loans are available for homeowners and renters affected by the floods.
But it’s unclear if and when FEMA will decide if the floods qualify for disaster relief. Last week, the Emergency Management Coordinator Pete Baldwin told the Travis County Commissioner’s Court the initial damage assessment didn’t meet the threshold for assistance. A final decision may not come for months.