In June of 2018, the Rio Grande Valley was hit by a storm of natural disaster proportions. Homes and businesses saw damage and some even complete destruction. People were left displaced and with little to nothing left in their possession.
As we know, disasters are not a planned or controlled situation. Many people are not financially, physically or mentally prepared for a disaster. Many times, people are at a loss as to what to do and how to move forward. This is when Rio Texas Response steps in to help.
Helping victims move forward
Rio Texas Response has been operating in the Valley for more than 12 years. It continues its tradition today of helping those that have had their homes destroyed by a natural disaster to rebuild and move forward.
Disaster Recovery Construction Manager Roland Pecina says, “We help those families that fall through the cracks with FEMA. We’re actually rebuilding houses and bringing houses up higher to keep them from flooding again.”
Pecina began working with Rio Texas Response about nine years ago. After seeing the need for help in the RGV community, he decided to use his construction expertise in giving back. “We can always give back to the community here in our own backyard,” said Pecina.
In direct response to the 2018 storm, houses are currently being rebuilt. One home was completed in May and one is currently under construction. There are plans to build two to three more before the end of the year. The goal is to have a total of 17 homes built by May 2020.
Funding for the construction of the new homes comes from donations and grants from UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Volunteers primarily complete the actual construction of the homes. Rio Texas Response then hires professionals for the more technical aspects.
In addition to the rebuilding efforts, Rio Texas Response also has a trained Emergency Response Team that assists in helping residents immediately after a disaster. Upon dispatch, the team helps prevent further damage by tarping roofs, clearing away fallen trees and debris, cleaning out flooded homes, and so much more. They also have assessors that help with referrals to professionals if the job is too big for the efforts or expertise of the volunteers.
Whitney Maupin, a trainer and disaster response member with ERT, said, “Our main goal is just to try to help to make a very tough situation a little better.”
There are efforts currently under way to grow the ERT as well as increase the number of volunteers with Rio Texas Response. All members of an ERT must complete the eight-hour training course and undergo a current background check.
“We can never have too much help. I believe in helping others and working as a team, because all things are easier together. Being a teacher, I am not always able to help, but if I can physically or emotionally help someone in a time of need, I will do it,” said Maupin.