After the flood

Rusty Russey (second from left), a case manager with United Methodist Church Organization on Relief, prays over Kingsland homeowner and flood victim Rick Scrimshire on October 15 along with Highland Lakes Crisis Network Executive Director Kevin Naumann and HLCN volunteer Tina Claxton. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON

As Rick Scrimshire stood on the back porch of his Lake LBJ home, he pointed to the top of an awning just below the second floor.

“It was just touching that awning, barely,” he said about floodwaters from Lake LBJ that reached 8-9 feet above his porch on October 16, 2018. “There really wasn’t any warning.”

Scrimshire’s home sits on the shores of the Colorado River arm of Lake LBJ in Kingsland. During last year’s historic flood, the Llano River and lakes LBJ, Marble Falls, and Travis roared out of their banks at levels many had never seen.

Although Scrimshire’s home repairs are mostly complete, many others are still in need, said Kevin Naumann, executive director of the Highland Lakes Crisis Network. While the piles of debris are gone, the lakes and rivers have returned to their banks, and, by all appearances, the homes have been rebuilt, many victims are still recovering.

“We’re still in the process of helping,” Naumann said. “We have about forty cases that are still open; most are small jobs. And we have six or seven cases that are extensive or complete rebuilds. We’ve closed about 650 cases, and about half of those didn’t have significant damage, but it still required more than some people could manage on their own.”

That number doesn’t include the houses and structures whose owners did not turn to the network for assistance, either because they had insurance or found help in other ways.

After the flood
Kingsland resident Rick Scrimshire sits beneath an American flag that he found still folded and wrapped after the October 2018 flood, which devastated his home. He hung the flag from his back porch after finding it and hasn’t taken it down since, a testament to the strength and resilience of the Highland Lakes community. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

After the flood, many groups and organizations, including churches, stepped in to assist. But with such massive damage up and down the Llano River and Colorado River basins, volunteers were limited in what they could do.

Austin Disaster Relief Network sent experienced staff and volunteers to the Highland Lakes to help with short-term and long-term recovery efforts. Highland Lakes Crisis Network sprung to life using the Austin organization as a guide, providing physical, emotional, and even spiritual support to disaster victims.

The network offers funding to repair physical damage, but it also has a “shepherding” program. Specially trained volunteers help victims through the recovery process, whether from a natural disaster such as the October 2018 flood or something more personal like a house fire.

“That’s the thing that sets us apart from a lot of other (relief) organizations,” Naumann said. “With the shepherds, the survivors have someone who walks beside them through the entire process and recovery.”

You don’t have to tell Scrimshire how amazing Highland Lakes Crisis Network or the community is in times of need. When he returned to his flooded home last year, a couple of friends showed up with their truck and trailer. They helped Scrimshire load salvageable items to store on their property.

And, it wasn’t just friends.

“One day, this guy shows up — I didn’t know him — and asks, ‘What can I do to help,’” Scrimshire said. “This community is just amazing.”

Naumann concurred.

He noted that immediately after the flood, churches such as First Baptist of Kingsland, First Baptist of Marble Falls, and First United Methodist of Marble Falls began mobilizing people to help. Other groups also formed, including the Marble Falls Mom Squad, which collected soiled clothing and linens to wash — even if it meant filling kiddie pools with water for hours of pre-soaking before tossing the clothes in their own washers and dryers.

Like Highland Lakes Crisis Network, many are still assisting flood victims and will be as long as the need remains.

On October 15 of this year, one year after the flood, Naumann brought Rusty Russey and Tina Claxton, also of Highland Lakes Crisis Network, to Scrimshire house for a special blessing. Russey is also a disaster relief case manager for United Methodist Church Organization on Relief. HLCN helped Scrimshire after the flood, and the network tries to conduct blessings for each home when a case is closed.

After the blessing, Scrimshire was presented with a Bible and a cross. The visitors noticed an American flag hanging off of the home’s second-story deck. Scrimshire found the flag still folded and in its wrapper after the flood.

“I took it out and hung it right there and haven’t taken it down,” he said with a touch of pride.

Russey, Claxton, and Naumann nodded.

“Resilient,” Scrimshire said. “That’s how I’d describe this community.”

Highland Lakes Crisis Network is accepting donations and volunteers. Visit its website for more information on how to help with the October 2018 flood recovery and other needs.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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