On the Saturday after the biggest winter storm to hit Texas in decades, Ashley Waggoner found herself on the road to Nacogdoches.
“Technically, we were headed out to go to Houston, but we got a call and were re-routed to Nacogdoches,” she said.
Waggoner and a friend — her driver, who wishes to stay anonymous — were loaded with supplies donated from the Paris community to help those stranded without power or water from Winter Storm Uri. Directed by the Texas Louisiana Coalition, a disaster relief organization, Waggoner and company were sent to Vista Pines Apartment Homes, a senior living facility, in Nacogdoches on Feb. 20, three days after the storm ended.
“They were still without power and still without water,” Waggoner said. “It was a sad situation. People were on the floor, unable to get up, people with diabetes without their medication and some without their breathing machines.”
Joline Gentry, vice president of the organization, said Waggoner was literally already on the road for Houston when Gentry called her for the redirect. She said some of the other relief organizations they work with got word Nacogdoches was hit especially hard by the storm.
“It was just a mess,” she said. “Some of them they found really needed help, and no one knew because they couldn’t call for help. It happened all over, but the bigger areas got on the news.”
Before leaving Paris, Waggoner gathered what she could from local donors. Brookshire’s gave a grocery cartload of Gatorade, a second cart filled with blankets and a third filled with single serve chip bags. She also received a full pallet of water from Paris Lumber Co. Denny’s was supposed to donate some meat, but it accidentally was served instead, so her contact donated $100 instead, and Waggoner took the money to David’s Meat Market to bring fresh steaks to the apartment complex. Paris Coffee Co. donated the largest bag of coffee they had, and The Home Depot sent grilling tools to help cook food for the residents.
Waggoner’s position is basically “boots on the ground,” Gentry said.
“She’s one of the quickest to get out there with supplies,” she said. “It was a Godsend, those supplies. Elderly were sitting there freezing, … and she had a whole pallet of water and blankets.”
And she couldn’t have done it without community support.
“This is what I love about Paris,” Waggoner said. “Our locals are phenomenal. … We couldn’t do what we do if it wasn’t for all the loving and giving people of Paris. I love them so much, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Waggoner and her friend dropped off the supplies with other volunteers who were already at the complex, she said, and they put the grilling tools to good use, giving everybody a warm meal.
“All of those people said to thank (Parisians) over and over again,” she said. “They were so happy and overwhelmed with emotion. That’s the best thing about this job. I love it.”
Gentry said the organization is always looking for volunteers, and those interested in helping when disaster strikes can fill out the vetting form at bit.ly/volunteervetting.