• Philip Burn

Community Collaboration Rebuilds Homes and Lives in Port Isabel, Texas

Dallas, Texas (April 9, 2024) – Staff and volunteers from The Salvation Army joined community partners to dedicate two rebuilt homes in Port Isabel that were previously destroyed by a tornado. Homes and businesses in Cameron County, located at the furthermost tip of South Texas, experienced considerable damage when a powerful storm struck in May 2023.

Working closely with Mennonite Disaster Services, Cameron County, First United Methodist Church of Port Isabel and the Point Isabel ISD, The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) team and local Service Unit staff coordinated the construction of the homes. Funds were secured from the county, ISD and The Salvation Army in order to rebuild two houses and complete significant repairs to seven additional homes.

Volunteers from the Port Isabel Service Unit were among the first to respond to the immediate impact of the tornado in May 2023. They worked tirelessly to coordinate meals and emergency assistance for several days, and later helped secure and finance hotel rooms for 22 families displaced by the storm. Some families have remained in hotel rooms for more than nine months.

“Today is such a special day for our community and especially for the two families moving back into their homes,” said Julie Gaucin, with The Salvation Army Service Extension team in Port Isabel. “This is a small, tightly knit community, and it has been such a blessing to see everyone come together to support each other and make today possible.”

The Mennonite Disaster Service team provided much of the labor and has overseen the construction of the homes. Mennonite volunteers from around the country have traveled to south Texas to work on the project spanning more than four months. Additionally, two young men from Africa, one from Zimbabwe and another from Kenya, have worked alongside the Mennonites during every stage of construction, including laying foundations and flooring, building the roof, hanging drywall and doors, fitting cabinets, bathrooms and more. The Salvation Army of Port Isabel and local volunteers have provided appliances, furniture and even art for the walls.

Dora Domato, one of the homeowners, said, “I want to tell everyone thank you. This is a beautiful house, like a mansion for me and my daughter Sophia. Thank you to The Salvation Army of Port Isabel. They have helped us a lot, ever since the first day of the tornado. That day was a nightmare but today I am very blessed.”

“Long-term recovery is a key area and often unseen component of any large-scale response effort, and The Salvation Army is committed to supporting individuals, families and communities long beyond the initial disaster. The successful collaboration between The Salvation Army, the county, First United Methodist Church, school district and the Mennonite Disaster Services is an example of long-term recovery at its absolute best,” said Alvin Migues, EDS Director for The Salvation Army in Texas. “After numerous challenging months, these two families can finally move into their beautiful new homes, thanks to the hard work and support of many.”

A short dedication service stook place in each house led by Carl Dube, Project Director with Mennonite Disaster Service, and included a Litany of Blessing and the presentation of several gifts to the families.

“We can’t thank the Mennonites and The Salvation Army enough for coming together with the county to give us the resources we needed to make everything happen here,” said Commissioner David A. Garza with Cameron County. “Some of us remember driving by here when there was nothing but destruction. The difference that has been made by a community coming together has been transformational. The lives of these people have been changed forever. Thank you to everyone involved.”

“One of the strengths of The Salvation Army is that we already work in so many communities across Texas. We’re there long before, during, and after any disaster strikes,” said Migues. “Our ministry touches every zip code in the state, and we stand ready to respond with practical, emotional and spiritual assistance as needed, just like here in Port Isabel.”

For more information on The Salvation Army’s current disaster response efforts go to www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.