Victoria, Texas is a city of 85,000 people located about 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s also the hometown of Steve Milam, the special education coordinator for the Princeton School District.
Victoria was in the path of Huricane Harvey and took a direct hit when the tropical storm ripped through Eastern Texas.
It could be weeks before all the city’s electric service is restored, according to its Facebook page. Widespread damage was reported with lots of trees and power down. Traffic lights were reported to be missing, and the city was filled with debris.
The Guadalupe River, which flows through Victoria, flooded. As of Tuesday, another 1 1/2 inches of rain was forecast, but the city was no longer under a tropical storm warning.
A boil notice was expected to be in effect for the next week, city officials stated. The community center and high school in Victoria were distributing ice and water for five hours a day – or until supplies lasted.
People in Victoria had been without electricity for days. Gasoline supplies were running low because gas stations were without power. Household trash had to be taken to drop stations. A citywide curfew required people to be off the streets of Victoria from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The curfew remained in effect Tuesday.
City leaders described the effect of Hurricane Harvey on Victoria as “devastating.”
With the people of Milam’s Texas home hurting as a result of the hurricane, he turned to the people of his Minnesota home for help.
Through the power of Facebook, Milam reached out to the Princeton community at about 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27 with a simple question: How can we help?
Within hours dozens of people committed to helping. Ideas were offered on how to get businesses, groups, and organizations, involved, too. By 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, a meeting had been set for Monday night at Trinity Lutheran Church in Princeton so these people of action could…take action.
What emerged was the “Princeton Community Hurricane Relief Effort.” The effort was organized to provide relief, especially in the often overlooked and under served south Texas area where Hurricane Harvey initially made landfall in the area known as the Golden Crescent— Rockport, Port Aransas, Victoria, and other affected smaller towns.
Many of the smaller cities are much like Princeton.
During the Monday meeting, attended by about 20 people, the group set up a partnership with the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent. The food bank serves a seven-county area affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Just as we in the Princeton area have learned through the March campaigns at the Princeton Area Pantry, cash stretches a lot farther than donations of food and dry goods. Through the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, a gift of $1 can provide up to eight meals because of the organization’s buying power, similar to how a $1 donation to our own food shelf provides three meals through the Second Harvest food bank.
According to Princeton Community Hurricane Relief Effort organizers, $25 can provide an 80-count package of diapers, $20 can provide a 12 ounce container of baby formula, and $10 can buy a case of bottled water.
The group is also going to set up a local bank account so donations to the relief effort can be made directly. That account was not yet set up by the Union-Times’ Tuesday deadline. I’ll share that information when I receive it.
It’s amazing how, in a few short hours, members of the Princeton community lined up to help complete strangers more than 1,300 miles away in Texas. In the days and weeks ahead, that effort is going to do nothing but multiply.
But that’s what we do here in Princeton!
Our giving spirit is just one of the many reasons that makes me proud to be a part of this community.
Jeff Hage is the editor of the Union-Times. Reach him by email at [email protected]