BELTON – Shanelle Fuse, a 23-year-old Hurricane Ike evacuee from Freeport, sat in the parlor of the First Baptist Church Belton and watched University of Mary Hardin-Baylor students play with her three children.
After eight days at the shelter, smiled as she talked about the students who visited the shelter throughout her stay there.
“They run my children ragged, and at night, they sleep all night,” she said.
Katie Leibert, a junior studying elementary education, cuddled Fuse’s two-month-old girl Nevaeh, which is ‘heaven’ backwards, in her arms.
“Nevaeh’s grandma just asked if I wanted to hold her,” Leibert said softly. “She doesn’t cry at all.”
On a nearby bench freshman Curtis Landrum, a theology and philosophy major from north Houston, worked hard to understand the words of Fuse’s oldest child, two-year-old Elijah. He smiled politely and tried to correct Elijah when he pointed to a magazine ad for a hand tool and said: “car.”
Even as Landrum volunteered his time, his own parents still were without electricity in their Houston-area home. They spent one night visiting him in the Belton area.
“If I was in this position one day, it’s what I would hope people would do for me,” Landrum said about his service at the shelter. “This could very easily have been my family.”
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Fuse considers her family lucky. A tree fell in her yard but missed her house. She is just waiting for word from Freeport that all essential services have been restored, and she will go back home with her children and her mother.
“They come after classes or when they are not studying,” Fuse said about the students. “One of them stayed overnight last night.”
Shannon Bates, a sophomore elementary education major, is from Huffman, a 50-minute drive from Galveston. Her parents lost 14 trees in the storm and were told they could be without electricity for up to two weeks.
“During Rita we didn’t have electricity for a week and a half,” she said as she played checkers with a 6-year-old girl. “We just kind of toughed it out.”
Whether it is giving respite to a mother with three small children, talking with a person who is troubled about the state of their home or bringing wheelchair bound evacuees on tours of the campus, UMHB students brightened the spirits of people whose lives were temporarily altered by a storm.
Bethany Franz, a freshman social work major from New Waverly, said she had been blessed for trying to help others in need.
“I am learning from these people,” she said. “I think it would be hard to just leave everything and not know what is going on back home.”