2017-09-07 / Community

Hurricane Harvey takes a toll on Texas

Local Ag Community Relief group lends helping hands
By Cindy Centofanti
Staff Writer • ccentofanti@mihomepaper.com

THE THUMB – The natural disaster, named Harvey, left Houston refugees gasping for air after nearly two weeks of torrential downpour, which accumulated up to 50 inches of water in some locations.

It’s been a mere week and Houston, along with surrounding cities, are still recovering from the devastation. Fortunately, many states are providing relief all over the country, including our very own.

Michigan Ag Community Relief (MACR), a non-profit organization, was founded in March by President Matt Schaller and nine other concerned members following one of the biggest catastrophic natural disasters to occur in Kansas – fiery wrath blazed across grasslands and livestock, leaving nothing but embers and ash in their wake.

Schaller and other MACR members quickly took action and organized semi-trucks full of agricultural essentials for the families and ranchers who lost everything. Their mission did not go unacknowledged as they quickly realized how willing, and eager, to help the Thumb community was.

So, the ‘first responders of agricultural disasters’ – a phrase coined by Schaller - banded together to make a difference by offering their helping hands to communities affected by the depredation.

The first responders set their sights on lending their resources to the people in Texas who lost everything following Harvey. Schaller said the group’s Facebook site was receiving messages from many individuals who asked what they could do to get involved with helping the survivors affected by the floods.

“We were getting messages, as Hurricane Harvey was touching down, from people asking what we were going to do,” he said. “As we were reading all of these messages, we were all thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ We just knew something had to be done right away.”

Schaller reached out to one volunteer, Brian Haak, of Swartz Creek, who was active with MACR’s last relief mission in Kansas. He also said Haak volunteered his services over the long-holiday weekend and arrived in Texas on Friday.

“Haak was able to get down there right away and make a drop,” Schaller said. “He went to La Porte in Texas and helped the La Porte FFA, La Porte Chapter of Young Farmers and the Harris County 4-H group. The whole effort was organized through the Texas A&M extension office, which is who we are in contact with currently to make our next drop.”

Schaller said the next planned truck drop off will be departing on Monday, Sept. 11 – the anniversary of 9/11. When questioned why he chose such a specific date, Schaller responded with saying how it’s to commemorate how the nation came together on that fateful day.

“It’s amazing to see everything happen,” Schaller said. “There is no end to the help. We have realized what our small community can do when everyone puts aside their everyday business and apply themselves to benefit a greater cause - 9/11 is proof of that. Our nation was rocked, but it brought us all together, and that’s why we do what we do.”

Schaller experienced that very feeling when he contacted Countryside Transportation in Sebewaing to coordinate and pay for the transportation fee for bringing all of the donations and resources in to Texas.

“I called a good friend of mine at Country Side Transportation, Stephanie Adams,” Schaller said. “I gave her a call to see what she would charge to send a truck down there. Of course, the community volunteered to load it, but MACR would cover the transportation cost. Just like that, Stephanie called me back and said the cost of the truck was covered – a $2,500 expense was taken care of just like that for our humble efforts. That proves the kind of community we live in.”

Schaller added that MACR set up multiple locations for donation drop-off points across the Thumb area where everyone can take part in the relief mission and choose to donate any supplies that will be loaded onto the next truck: Animal Nutrition in Deckerville, Gordon Farm’s in Croswell, Tractor Supply Company in Bad Axe, Farmers Co-Op in Cass City, Helena Chemical in Imlay City, Wahjamega Country Church in Caro, the Brown City Elevator and the Dairy Barn in Sebewaing.

“If someone wants to help by offering a monetary value, we are accepting donations at all Chemical Bank locations,” Schaller said. “100 percent of what goes in, goes right back out. We aren’t seeking these donations for anyone else other than those who need it the most and right now it’s for the people of Texas. I’ve been on that end. I know what it’s like to need help from your neighbor.”

Schaller said if anyone wishes to venture to the above bank and make a contribution, the funds can be made out to the Michigan Ag Community Relief Fund.

He also said for anyone interested in donating specific agricultural resources there is a list which has been carefully complied by the Texas A&M extension – www.agcommunityrelief.com.

“We’re more than just a first responder for agricultural and natural disasters,” Schaller said. “We are a group who is going to continue to follow through by offering our help to whoever needs it, even months following. That’s just who we are.”

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