from Embrace Relief SW
Time after time we are told to live our lives by loving our neighbors just as we love ourselves. We’ve been taught this concept from family members that came before us and we’ve read about this in our traditions. There is something about that feeling of giving to someone in need that just blossoms a great sense of joy in one’s soul which can not be given by material possessions.
As life continues to occur, it brings joy and also hard times for ourselves and for the people around us. It is during these times in our lives that we are given the opportunity to take action in part to bring back the joy to the lives of others and making a difference. We all have this choice to make. Will we be the differences in our neighbor’s lives when needed? After all, I am my neighbors’ neighbor and sometimes that’s all it takes.. And just as life happens, there was a fire that hit Bastrop County right outside of Austin, TX causing 1700 homes to destroy. Then yet another fire that burned October 13th through the 24th of 2015. Less than a week later Bastrop County was hit again with a flood on Halloween resulting in an additional 221 homes being damaged with 61 destroyed and 34 majorly damaged. A county of merely 75,000 people suffered 3 major disasters in five months. Our neighbors lives were destroyed, their homes lost yet again. Bastrop County lost 64 homes and scorched 4,582 acres. For a few, this was the third time in six years they have lost their homes to a wildfire. For others it was the second time in four years in which they are being forced to start over again, and for some it was the second time within six months that their property had been on the list of properties damaged or destroyed by a disaster (BCLTRT).
The residents of Bastrop County are our neighbors. They are in need and we are our neighbors’ neighbor.
Initially the Turkish American Community had not had much contact with anyone from the Bastrop County, but that didn’t matter. Once our community learned what had happened with the Hidden Pine Forest Fire, we took initiative to be a part of recovering what had been lost. On October 2, 2015 Embrace Relief, along with Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Raindrop Foundation organized a fundraising dinner at the Raindrop Foundation branch in Austin for efforts to raise money for the families that were victims of the fire. Glenn Hegar, Texas State Comptroller of Public Accounts, and Paul Pape, Bastrop County Judge attended the fundraiser and each gave their support by participating in giving a speech. By the end of the night, Embrace Relief, TTACC and Raindrop Foundation signed a check of $51,000 over to Christine Files, Chair of the Board of The Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team. With great efforts of our teams and donors we were able to lend a helping hand to our neighboring community.
Once a considerable amount of money was raised and a family in need was identified, the Mennonite Disaster Services, a longtime partner of The Bastrop Long Term recovery Team, began preparations for construction for the home of Dennis Moninger, his son Michael and daughter Hannah. The Mennonite Disaster Services consists of many volunteers from parts of Indiana, Michigan and Canada. Within about six months of construction work the home built by this team was ready for Mr. Moninger and his family. On March 24, 2016 the Mennonite Disaster Service and Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team invited Mahmut Gok, Southwest branch Executive Director of Embrace Relief, who was also present at the Fundraiser in Austin, and President/CEO of Raindrop Foundation, Mehmet Okumus to their hosted dedication home service in welcoming the family to their new home for handing over the keys ceremony.
The home dedication was a great turnout with a house full of people from Mennonite, BCLTRT, Embrace Relief, Raindrop,
TTACC, and members of the Bastrop Community such as Judge Pape, neighbors and the fire department. Mennonite Project Coordinator, Carl Dube, hosted the event wonderfully as members from each organization said a few words to the family and presented gifts to them as well. Everyone present enjoyed a great barbecue plate provided by the Northwest Catering team. By the Grace of God and his giving neighbors, Dennis Moninger’s family now has a new home. It takes a lot for a person to decide on staying and to start over after three disasters. We thank him for not giving up and leaving the community. Looking around over his land surrounded by people from all walks of life, Mr. Moninger stood in awe knowing that it is well: People he never met before attending such an important day for his family all because we are neighbors. “Words fail me,” Moninger said, smiling. “There’s a lot of good people in this world. You’re led to believe it’s not a good place, but that’s not true. It is.” (www.stateman.com)
Besides Mr. Moninger and his family, there are still lots of people that are in need of help. Let’s be a good neighbor and lend a helping hand in anyway we can!
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