Quincy Valley people join efforts to help in hurricane recovery
A seed of an idea to help victims of Hurricane Harvey is very quickly bearing fruit.
A self-described “farmer’s wife” had an idea to gather some of the food that grows so abundantly in the Quincy Valley and somehow get it to hungry people flooded out of their homes in southeastern Texas and Louisiana by Hurricane Harvey.
The first truck left Wednesday.
Another truckload might be out before the week is done, and more deliveries are being planned.
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The farmer’s wife, Harriet Weber, is getting it done, after starting an official fundraising campaign only a few days before the first truck picked up its load of dry beans. The dry beans will be delivered to the Houston Food Bank, where they are very much wanted and will be shared with other food banks in the region devastated by the historic hurricane.
Like most Americans, Weber has seen news coverage of the tragedy and wants to help. Her idea was to find ways for local growers and agribusinesses to give a little and put it all together and make a big impact.
“I just talked to an official in Beaumont (Texas), and their needs are great and ongoing,” Weber said Monday. “We have all this food here, and people want to help.”
Dry beans and apples were first on her list. But she knew she needed cash for things like fuel, so she began a fundraising campaign, called Quincy Food for Texas. It reached $8,800 in two days.
Donations at her GoFundMe.com page have come from near and far, from individuals and businesses. She also started a local donation account at Wheatland Bank in Quincy. Her goal at first was $10,000, but she has since raised that to $15,000, because more and more people are donating.
Thinking of others
On Monday, Faith Community Church, of Quincy, gave to the Quincy Food for Texas campaign one of the larger donations: $3,028.
Jess Slusher, pastor at Faith Community Church, said Tuesday that members of his congregation had been talking about the hurricane flooding and how people lost their homes; how many weddings, funerals and church services must have been canceled; how people’s lives were totally disrupted.
“We are up here, and we don’t have any of those dangers,” Slusher said, and “people are wondering about what they can do to help.”
The hefty donation was the total from an offering taken up at the church and from an emergency fund of the church, Slusher said. “A lot of people gave some. Some gave a little, some gave a lot.” With the money likely going toward transportation, “it seemed like just such a practical expression.”
People are generous. And he said he knows other churches are getting involved and helping. A lot of people can do a lot of good, even if it’s just with a little from each, he said.
“Even in little Quincy we can make a difference,” Slusher said. “I just think it’s awesome how responsive our community is to the needs of people in another community. It’s wonderful.”
Weber gave a lot of credit to Central Bean’s general manager, Janice Stephens, for getting Quincy Food for Texas off the ground quickly with its first shipment. Weber had called to see if Central Bean and some growers would donate beans, and Stephens took it from there.
Central Bean is one of four businesses that are members of the Washington Bean Dealers Association and have joined efforts to donate beans. The other three companies are Farmer Bean, CHS Inc., and Columbia Bean.
The truck trailer was loaded Wednesday morning with donated dry beans in 2,000-pound poly totes. The driver was to pick up 10,000 lbs. of beans at each of the four warehouses and head for the Houston Food Bank with 40,000 lbs. of beans – all grown locally, Stephens said.
Stephens, who grew up in Quincy, was matter-of-fact about the “why” of donating so many beans.
“Just to help the people in Texas,” she said and added that if a disaster were to happen in Quincy, similar help from others would be greatly appreciated.
Weber is well-known in Quincy Valley and has volunteered in many ways in the community, including with the historical society and Reiman-Simmons museum on F Street SW – she is leading the project to construct the Community Heritage Barn.
She and her husband, David, farm southwest of Quincy. They grow beans, and that is how her idea started. She knows that dry beans ship well, they store well and are high in protein. What’s more, people in the hurricane-affected area typically eat a lot of beans.
With some phone conversations, she found that apples would also be very much wanted – another way Quincy Valley could help. Kids love apples, they are easy to store and hand out, because they are a hard fruit, she said.
Weber has arranged for a truckload of apples to leave this week, and she wants to get a second load out soon, too.
The campaign is also getting a personal touch: notes of encouragement on cards created by Quincy schoolchildren. Weber said that so far, Monument Elementary School and Quincy Valley School students are sending cards, and Weber hopes to get more cards from other schools to send to Texas with the food shipments, “just to let them know we care about them,” she said.
Reacting to some online postings suggesting that local help be directed to victims of the many wildfires in the Northwest, closer to home, Weber said that most of those crises are managed. People are taken care of and fed in a pretty well organized system after wildfires. But in Texas, “they are just desperate,” she said.
Weber has not been through a natural disaster like a hurricane – that is not where her motivation is coming from. For her, it is the Golden Rule to help others.
“We’ve all had hardships and pain in our life … so you do things because you have compassion on your fellow human being,” she said.
“The other that I have seen is you see everybody working together in Texas, and it has put aside this political debate thing,” she said. “This is what we are about in America. We need to be encouraging this kind of thing in America.”
Weber is finding that one of the higher hurdles is obtaining transportation. On Monday, she said she is working with three trucking companies.
For the first load of food for Texas, she found a family-owned business in Whatcom County – Ludtke Pacific Trucking – willing to hugely discount its fee for this special run. It was an interesting series of steps that put her in touch with the Ludtke Pacific: She called Nick Parker, project manager at the Port of Quincy; he referred her to a trucking company that turned out not to travel outside the Northwest; that company referred her to Ludtke – a “very generous and helpful company,” she said. Quincy Food for Texas is getting a 50 percent discount on the normal cost for the trip, which she estimated at $9,000.
“Everyone in this has been so gracious and willing to help!” she wrote in an email.
With such rapidly built momentum, this effort is already looking like it will extend well beyond one or two shipments. Weber said she was contacted by a woman in Ephrata who wants to get a truckload of supplies together, and Weber is talking with the Houston contacts she has made to pinpoint the actual needs. People there might need things like bleach, but they might have plenty of bottled water, for instance.
That kind of shipment would be a way more people and businesses could contribute, Weber said. She will also be working on getting potatoes and onions together for a shipment.
“This is not going to go away anytime soon,” she said. “As we are harvesting this fall, we can just give a little bit of what we are harvesting and share with others.”
Quincy Food for Texas contacts
Contact Harriet Weber at 398-1949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations are being taken at Wheatland Bank in Quincy and at www.gofundme.com/quincy-food-for-texas.
By Dave Burgess, email@example.com