By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
WECHES – As of 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, Weches resident Brittany McBrayer, a friend and her mother were standing in line at a Walmart in Nacogdoches with four shopping carts loaded down with blankets, boxes of diapers, non-perishable food, baby items and other things for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Starting on Wednesday, Aug. 29 with just a simple live Facebook post telling her Facebook friends and family she was going shopping for things the hurricane victims need, Brittany has raised more than $4,400. She has went shopping three times, with two loads of supplies already in the hands of those who need it ‑ thanks to people who reached out to her to assist in her attempt to help other Texans in need.
“I started seeing posts on Facebook with people wishing they could do something and sending prayers. I didn’t feel like that. I thought, heck, I can go to the grocery store and buy some stuff, put a post on Facebook and see if people who are in the same boat as me or those stuck at work wanted to compile our money and put it together and I’ll go get it,” Brittany, 31, told The Messenger on Friday, Sept. 1 while preparing to shop in Nacogdoches. “That’s the only way I know to help.”
Her husband, Randy, 30, just returned from a trip to the flooded waters of Houston suburb Cleveland, where he assisted a team of men in boat rescues that brought more than 200 people to safety.
“The guys are out pulling people out of the water. With Evie (Randy and Brittany’s 2-year-old daughter) I can’t do that,” Brittany said during her live Facebook post. “People have lives, they have to go to work, for many it’s the first day of school. That’s the only way I know how to help.”
The donations didn’t just come from people in East Texas.
“It came from all over- from Alabama where Randy is from, Florida – everywhere. People were noticing what Randy was doing with the boat rescues and people were prompting me because they know him, people I have never met in my life. It’s been a really cool thing,” Brittany said.
Some of it was because of publicity Randy received from various news outlets while taking part in the boat rescues, including being interviewed by a Birmingham, Ala. newspaper. A picture of Randy on a rescue boat full of evacuees was featured on the front page of The Messenger in the Sunday, Aug. 31 edition.
“I’ve had from $20 to $500 donations. The vast amount of donations have been the smaller amount, but they have added up,” Brittany said.
When Brittany started her donation drive, her goal was to simply buy items the churches and shelters in the Houston area were asking for. At the beginning, she didn’t have an exact plan how she was going to get the items to the affected areas, but things began to fall in place.
“The first time, my husband’s business partner took the food and other items and dropped it off at hotels in the Lufkin area that had evacuees. Since then, we have taken all of the stuff we have collected to Harvest Church in Crockett, because they have been making trips to Houston,” Brittany said.
The items Brittany purchased on Friday will be taken to the church on Saturday morning (Sept. 2). The church plans to take those items and other collected donations to the Southeast Houston area this time.
“One day I focused on baby stuff, formula, diapers. I bought some of the ready-to-use formula too so they don’t have to mix it up or require extra effort on their part. I’ve bought children’s and adult’s clothes. I’ve been told they don’t really need clothes unless it’s new socks, shirts and underwear,” Brittany explained. “Another time I focused on blankets and towels because I heard stories from my husband about how the people were freezing cold when they were pulled out of the water before they got to a shelter. Now that Houston people have been rescued for the most part and are about to get to go back to their homes, I have been buying cleaning supplies too.”
Now with her husband home, the McBrayers hold their daughter tight and appreciate how lucky they are.
“It’s not really survivor’s guilt, but we didn’t get any bad weather. We have a clean, warm house and a bed to sleep in. I can’t imagine if I had a baby and was uprooted and thrown in a shelter,” Brittany said. “We are mostly just grateful for what we have, but even more so than normal. We just found other ways to help. Even if you think you can’t do anything, you can.”
Her daughter Everlee was with her for the first two shopping trips. Even though she’s only 2-and-a-half, Everlee was excited.
“She gets excited that we are helping buy stuff for the people Daddy saved out of the flood waters even though she doesn’t understand it fully yet,” Brittany said. “You can see in one of my videos that she is saying ‘help the babies.’”
Earlier on Friday, Brittany wrote on Facebook she has never been more proud to be a Texan.
“With the Lord’s help and provision – He’s right. We will get through this,” Brittany wrote.
For those who want to help Brittany with her collection efforts for Hurricane Harvey victims, funds can be sent via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org or she can be contacted on Facebook.
“Keep the money coming, and I’ll keep shopping,” Brittany wrote on Facebook Friday evening. “Thank you so much for all you do.”