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Helping Hands from Missouri

Hands Reaching Hands From Missouri to Texas to Florida

Seira Murray-Graphic Design Artist

Missouri Hurricane Relief

By Jalen Andrews, Thayer High School

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After the devastation our country’s coastal areas have suffered through this hurricane season, it is great to see the “helping hands” that come to the victims’ aid. People from all over the country have assisted in the recovery effort, and southern Missouri is on this list. The Thayer (Mo.) High School FFA and the rural community electric cooperative served as the “helping hands” used to assist those affected by the hurricane tragedies that impacted the United States.

The Thayer FFA (Future Farmers of America) Chapter collected water in their stock trailer to send to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. They received gallons upon gallons of bottled water from the community, and they were able to take the water to the Arkansas Baptist Foundation in Oxford, Ark., for transport to the residents and rescue workers in Texas.

FFA President Christian Hirsch said, “We are happy that the Thayer FFA was able to help the families that are in need because of these terrible hurricanes, and also we are glad to help our fellow FFA members, because FFA is a national organization. I know that if we were in need, they would send us help just as we did, so we are very happy that we were able to send this water down there.”

The Missouri FFA has 26,057 members representing 342 chapters. The national organization has more than 649,000 members representing 7,589 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education,” said Marcus Orf, Thayer FFA Director.

The Thayer FFA was an example of students going out of their way to help those in need, and they did not let their age keep them from helping.

“Even though we are young, we still felt like we needed to help. We decided that we would ask people to give us water so we could send it down to Texas, and the community response was great. I was proud that we were able to help in a big way, despite our age and distance from the areas affected,” FFA Vice President Mikayla Allen said.

Howell Oregon Electric Cooperative, based in West Plains, Mo., is also a perfect example of what “lending a helping hand” means. Dan Singletary, CEO/General Manager at HOEC, said, “Howell-Oregon was proud to send linemen to Florida to assist with the recovery efforts. We remember when other Cooperatives came to assist us back in April when our area of Missouri was devastated with flooding. Cooperatives helping Cooperatives, that is what we do. Cooperatives are family.”

Having experienced the devastating effects that flooding can bring to an area, HOEC did not hesitate to help victims from Hurricane Irma, but also Hurricane Harvey.

Singletary, of HOEC, along with his wife Rhonda, coordinated efforts in West Plains to gather supplies to send to Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas. The Singletary family has family near the Houston area, and felt it was important to spring into action and provide essential supplies to assist in their recovery process. Singletary stated, “It is extremely important to help our neighbors when they are in need. Many can recall that the West Plains area was affected by flooding back in April. Communities came together to help us, so by gathering supplies to send to Texas it was just one way of being able to give back. We are grateful to everyone who donated items, and thankful to those who helped deliver the supplies.”

Linemen from HOEC traveled south to assist crews from other cooperatives with power restoration after the devastation from Hurricane Irma. Along with HOEC, other Missouri electric cooperatives also sent crews to lend a helping hand. Altogether, 154 linemen from 26 systems in Missouri were sent to the call for help from electric cooperatives in the path of Hurricane Irma.

HOEC, as well as other Missouri electric cooperatives, are no strangers to helping out in crisis situations across the country. Relief crews are coordinated by the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, the statewide service organization for the state’s electric cooperatives. Its emergency assistance program began in 1948.

Upon returning home to Missouri the crews discussed that it was difficult to reach Sumter Electric Cooperative, which is the Cooperative their crews were designated to assist.

“The crews said that traffic conditions were very problematic, stating that there were traffic accidents all along the roadways. They stated that working conditions were also very difficult. They pointed out that it was challenging to work in a major wind storm,” Singletary stated.

Like the flooding that affected much of HOEC’s service region earlier this spring, crews said that it was tough to get to certain areas to safely restore power. The crews used chainsaws to remove debris from these areas, so that they could work safely to restore power.

A small rural school in southern Missouri and a local electric cooperative were able to extend helping hands to the metropolitan areas of Texas and Florida. The full circle effect then came back to the HOEC linemen. Despite their great challenges, the people of Florida still felt the need to help the people that were helping them. One lineman from HOEC remembered,”The people in Florida were nice. They would offer us water and snacks.”

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