HAYS COUNTY, Texas - The Hays County Veterans Services Office says they were preparing for the winter storm on February 11 but that they had no idea just how bad it was going to get.
"We knew freezing precipitation and terrible conditions were headed our way," Hays County Veterans Services Director Jude Prather said in a news release. "So we began mobilizing."
Prather’s team, which includes Wesley Matthews, Sasha Mathews, and Michael Hernandez, coordinated efforts with the San Marcos VFW, Southside Community Center, Salvation Army San Marcos, the H.O.M.E. Center and Hays County Food Bank to prepare for helping homeless veterans.
"Wesley, who runs our Hope4Hays County Veterans Program, was at the forefront of finding temporary housing before and during the winter storm," Prather said. "Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra teamed up with us to search homeless camps around the area to look for people to temporarily shelter at Southside."
20 homeless veterans and families were able to be put into hotels before the weather hit.
Photo courtesy Hays County Veterans Office.
When the storm continued and conditions worsened, including power outages and water issues, Prather's team helped with food drops at hotels. "We secured food from Hays County Food Bank, San Marcos VFW, Wimberley VFW and Daughters of the American Revolution," Prather said.
With power outages still happening and many around Hays County still without water, Prather met up with San Marcos VFW Commander Stephanie Brown and her husband, Aaron, both Iraqi war veterans, to distribute drinking water and MREs (ready to eat meals). They established a warming center at the VFW, which became the unofficial water distribution spot for the greater San Marcos area.
State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) was among those helping at the VFW. She also used her personal truck to take hundreds of gallons of water around the county.
Prather said the collaboration and quick action by so many made all the difference during the emergency and immediate aftermath. He added that many Hays County veterans showed once again that their call to serve never ends.
"Partnerships between organizations and individuals with common goals can achieve so much more than any one group or person alone," Prather said.