Texas Baptist Men placed all its disaster relief volunteers on standby and Buckner International ministries evacuated personnel and clients from Beaumont in preparation for Hurricane Laura.
From Galveston to southwest Louisiana, about a half-million residents were ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Laura intensified. It was expected to make landfall late Aug. 26 or early Aug. 27, possibly as a Category 4 storm that could cause a catastrophic storm surge.
All TBM disaster relief units and 5,300 volunteers have been placed on standby, including rapid response teams who are prepared to be serving within 24 hours after the storm hits.
Mud-out crews are preparing to clean out and disinfect any flooded homes, and chainsaw teams will remove fallen trees and broken limbs that present danger to residents.
Other volunteers will provide emergency food service, chaplaincy and access to showers and laundry equipment.
“Hurricane Laura is a significant storm poised to cause significant damage,” said Mickey Lenamon, TBM chief executive officer. “Our volunteers are packed and ready to serve as soon as we can. Together, TBM volunteers will deliver help, hope and healing in the hardest days of people’s lives. Please pray for everyone who will be affected by the storm as well as those who will respond to needs.”
Buckner evacuates from Beaumont
Staff at Buckner Children and Family Services and Buckner’s Calder Woods senior living facility began evacuation in the Beaumont area following a mandatory order issued by Jefferson County officials Aug. 24.
Evacuating people during the COVID-19 pandemic posed additional hurdles, Buckner President Albert Reyes acknowledged.
“But our team was well prepared from past hurricanes and the work we have done the past six months mitigating risks from the pandemic,” Reyes said. “I’m proud of our teams’ response and would ask for prayers this week for Buckner and for everyone affected by these storms.”
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Buckner staff started monitoring the storms a week earlier when the tropical storms Laura and Marco caused meteorologists to predict the unprecedented possibility of two hurricanes simultaneously in the Gulf of Mexico. While Marco eventually weakened, Laura continued to build momentum.
Children and foster families relocate to Camp Buckner
Early Aug. 25, a caravan of cars and vans containing 76 mask-wearing staff, children and families from Buckner Children and Family Services left Beaumont headed west to the safety of Camp Buckner near Burnet. The group included 18 Buckner employees and their families, along with 17 children from the assessment center and foster families.
“The children in the care of Buckner are already processing through many issues that impacted them earlier in life. When you compound that trauma with additional large-scale crises like a hurricane and global pandemic, a greater uncertainty emerges as their worlds keep changing,” said Henry Jackson, senior vice president of Buckner Children and Family Services.
Camp Buckner employs a licensed counselor, who will work with the displaced children and staff to help alleviate the additional stress and fear from the storm and travel.
“Our amazing staff in Beaumont and at Camp Buckner are certainly rising to the challenge to provide a calm and caring response while providing for the children’s physical, emotional and psychological needs,” Jackson said. “I am extremely proud of our Children and Family Services professionals who continuously provide a sense of normalcy for vulnerable children and let them know they do not have to carry the extra burden themselves.”
Calder Woods residents go to Houston, Austin and Dallas
At the same time, Calder Woods associates in full personal protection equipment worked all morning to assist 68 health care residents as they safely boarded an assortment of ambulances and charter buses bound for Parkway Place in Houston, Buckner Villas in Austin and Ventana by Buckner in Dallas. More than two dozen associates evacuated to provide care for the residents.
“The team across all of Buckner Retirement Services continues to stand firm against the many challenges we have faced this year,” said Charlie Wilson, senior vice president of Buckner Retirement Services. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now evacuating Calder Woods in Beaumont to three of our sister campuses, where they will be protected and cared for by our associates. These dedicated associates are true heroes, resilient in their dedication to serving seniors.”
In addition to the impact of Laura on Buckner’s work in Texas, staff affiliated with Buckner Dominicana in the Dominican Republic report they are assessing the storm’s damage on the island, where 12 people were reported killed.
Dexton Shores, senior executive director who oversees Buckner’s international ministries, said most of the storm damage hit the island opposite of where Buckner has operations.
This is not the first time Baptist Children and Family Services and Buckner Retirement Services staff and clients have been forced to evacuate the Beaumont campuses, Reyes said. Previous evacuations occurred in 2008 due to Hurricane Ike and 2005 due to Hurricane Rita. Buckner Children and Family Services also evacuated in 2017 due to Hurricane Harvey.
“At the beginning of the year, we were making plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our work in Southeast Texas, but 2020 had other plans,” Reyes said. “In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic and now the hurricane evacuation are symbolic of the flexibility and resilience of our amazing teams and how they continue to care for vulnerable children, families and seniors regardless of the extenuating circumstances.”
Compiled from reports by Texas Baptist Men and Buckner International.