On the evening of Wednesday, April 17, there was a deadly explosion in a fertilizer plant in the Central Texas town of West, Texas. West is 75 miles south of Dallas, which is where the Aidmatrix headquarters are located. The entire Aidmatrix team shifted their focus to helping our partners with the relief efforts, including our COO Keith Thode deploying to West the next day. Aidmatrix activated our technology for immediate use by the State Emergency Management Services for donations management. On Friday morning, it was my turn to help the good people of West.
Our partners at Adventist Community Services (ACS), along with the local Hill County Emergency Management, opened a donation collection center in the Hillsboro Outlet Mall. Immediately following the disaster, West became so overwhelmed with the outpouring of aid and donations that they had to open this donation collection site to hopefully maintain a little more order in West.
There were a few other volunteers at the Hillsboro location on Friday, along with myself, and we were able to accept, sort and pack boxes upon boxes of donations from the local communities. Once ACS’s truck arrived, we loaded most of the storefront onto the truck, to get ready for the weekend, which was expected to bring even more donations from all over Central and North Texas.
The local county Judge visited a multiple times throughout the day, and the second time around he saw how much had arrived, and how well organized the location was, and decided to keep it open through Sunday evening, one day longer than originally planned. ACS kept their truck at that location throughout the weekend, so boxes and goods could continue to be loaded from the storefronts into the truck, making room for more donations to be sorted in the storefronts. Vice President Melis Jones, Sr. Program Manager Daniel David and a group of Aidmatrix friends and volunteers were the final group deployed to West, spending their entire Sunday working in the donation station, getting the truck ready to take the goods into West.
One of my favorite experiences of the day was meeting a school teacher from a town 30 miles north of West. She came to the donation center to drop off a car full of items that she purchased herself, which in itself was a very generous and selfless act. She then informed us that her class wanted to make and decorate posters to put up in the schools that were damaged by the explosion, welcoming back the students with positive messages and images. What an inspiring story to hear that people, no matter the age, want to go out of their way to help their fellow man. Its stories like these that make working for Aidmatrix so rewarding.
At Aidmatrix, I don’t get an opportunity to work “in the field” very often, because where I’m needed most during the time of a disaster is behind a computer. But thanks to my boss, and the proximity of this tragedy, I was allowed a chance to physically help those affected by this disaster in West. And it was an opportunity I won’t soon forget. It is incredible to be able to spend time with the folks in the community that are willing to do anything and everything in their capacity to help their fellow neighbors.
-Graham Caywood, Aidmatrix Program Specialist