2017-09-13 / Featured / News

Chesterfield volunteers recall aftermath of Harvey


Daniel Holmes, pictured here before leaving for Houston with donations, returned to Midlothian last week. 
JAMES HASKINS Daniel Holmes, pictured here before leaving for Houston with donations, returned to Midlothian last week. JAMES HASKINS Traveling to Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a trio of good Samaritans from Chesterfield knew they were in for an eventful trip – and that was before their minivan was hit by a tractor-trailer in Georgia.

Two weeks ago, a group organized by Midlothian resident Daniel Holmes trekked to Houston to bring donated supplies and assist in relief efforts. They took two vehicles: a minivan that had been donated for the trip by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and a Mitsubishi truck. In Georgia, the minivan was hit and spun by a tractor-trailer that was trying to change freeway lanes. The tractor-trailer then sped off, only stopping after the minivan caught up with it and told the driver to pull over so they could wait for the police.

“He literally got over, pushed the minivan out of the way,” says Xavier Kirkland, who was riding in the truck and witnessed the collision.

But their journey to Houston wasn’t all bad. As both vehicles carried signs stating their destination, more than half a dozen cars pulled them over on the highway to give them cash donations.

After reaching Houston, the group unloaded their provisions at a campus of the city’s Church Without Walls. There, they continued to help distributing supplies, and went around the city by boat and car to help flood victims pull belongings from their homes. They also helped salvage what books they could from a library that had flooded.

“That stuff that you saw on TV, it was worse than that,” says Holmes, an in-house pastor at Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries in Chesterfield. He recalls that the whole area reeked of sewage, as a wastewater plant was submerged by the storm. “It was terrible. The smell was horrific. Then I saw people coming together, and that was the best thing.” One flood victim they met was an elderly German woman lamenting the loss of her furniture. The furniture had survived both world wars in Germany, and she had placed it atop 5-gallon buckets in an attempt to elevate it above the flood waters. “It still wasn’t high enough,” Holmes says. “Harvey tore it up. She literally lost everything in her house.”

One man they came across in a boat had lost most of his clothing to the floodwaters. Holmes gave him the shirt and shoes he was wearing.

“I was upset because I couldn’t give him my pants,” Holmes says.

Leland Burch, a 42-year-old disabled veteran in Woodlake, says he got roped into going upon receiving a phone call from Holmes asking if he’d come. Burch responded to the proposition with a laugh, saying he’d been thinking about going for the past 24 hours.

“It was definitely an amazing trip,” says Burch, who served in Iraq and Kuwait. “It was definitely God’s work. It was amazing to go down there and help people.”

Kirkland, a friend of Holmes’ son, was also encouraged to join the week-long trip by Holmes. Kirkland says seeing the German woman was heartbreaking.

“She was just so sad,” says Kirkland, who recently enrolled at John Tyler Community College. “There was people out there asking for water and ice while we were driving around. It hurt my heart to see that.”

Still, Kirkland saw positive aspects to the situation, especially when he helped a family as they removed furniture and tore down ruined walls from their house. Even though their home was destroyed, they still found reason to smile.

“It was just happy to see a family, that doesn’t have no help, be together,” Kirkland says. ¦

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