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One Flood Victim’s Journey from Food Pantry Volunteer to Food Pantry Client

One month after the devastating Aug. 21 floods, food pantry volunteer Robert is recovering with the help of his community

Cars began lining up in the parking lot across from St. Patrick’s Church in McEwen around 7:00 am for St. Vincent de Paul’s monthly food distribution on Wednesday, September 15. As boxes of produce, eggs, milks, and other pantry staples were being organized to pass out, food pantry volunteer, Robert, greeted each client with a smile. Robert has been donating his time at the Second Harvest Partner Agency for more than three years.

“I help line people up,” said Robert. “I help wherever I am needed. That is what I like doing. This is my calling.”

This distribution is different, though. Many of the clients in line seeking assistance are victims of the August 21 flash floods that ravaged communities across Humphreys, Hickman, Houston, and Dickson counties. In Humphreys County alone, at least 509 homes were impacted by flooding, 271 of which were destroyed – including Robert’s home.

It was one month ago when a police officer knocked on the door of his Browning Street home in Waverly, warning of incoming flood waters. The rain had been coming down heavily throughout most of the morning, and while the family was used to some flooding in the area, this seemed unusual.  

“I went back to get the wife out of bed, told her it is time to get up because it is going to flood,” said Robert. Within five minutes, the situation went from urgent to catastrophic.

“Before we could make it out of the front door, my truck was under water, and we were in water this deep,” said Robert, pointing to his chest.

The flash floods’ powerful current swept a neighboring home off its foundation, and washed it right up to Robert’s home, blocking the bulk of the flood water from overtaking Robert and his wife.

“I think that’s the only reason why we didn’t drown,” he said. “That was the only reason it did not go all the way over our heads.”

Once the water subsided, it was clear all the family’s belongings were either severely damaged or washed away. His home was a total loss.

“We lost the truck, all of our furniture, everything inside,” he said. “I lost my shed with a brand-new mower… more than $4,000 worth of tools. We just lost it all.”

For Robert and his wife, Waverly is more than just a home, it’s their community. Living in the town for most of his life, Robert made a career as a pipe insulator, working on steam and water lines.

A heart attack, multiple bypass surgeries, and a subsequent staph infection left him disabled and unable to work. He and his wife of 20 years, Jan, had been living on a limited fixed income but were getting by.  They have five children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren – many who live nearby.

“God brought us through it, and my story isn’t over with yet,” said Robert. “Through God and all the people that are helping us, we are making it.”

With the help of St. Vincent de Paul – the organization where he generously donated his time – and Second Harvest, Robert can access the food he and his family needs while they begin rebuilding their lives.

“We finally found a place to rent, but it had to be in Camden,” said Robert. “I want to be back over here. When we can find a home here, we are coming back. My story isn’t over… Waverly will come back.”

With your help, Second Harvest continues to support our Partner Agencies that are serving families affected by the floods – providing more than 19,000 meals during the disaster response so far. While the flood-impacted communities continue their recovery efforts, Second Harvest is committed to be a resource in the weeks, months, and years ahead – ensuring our neighbors, like Robert, can put food on the table during these challenging times.

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