SPRINGFIELD -- Spencer Harris teared up as he read through some of the letters.
A few days earlier, the Springfield High principal had asked his students to jot down well wishes and uplifting thoughts for people in the small “one-light town” of Mauriceville, Texas, a town less than 20 miles across the state Texas/Louisiana state line that suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Harvey.
As Harris flipped through the letters his students wrote, words such as “hope” and “community” and “togetherness” and “pride” jumped off the pages, as well as phrases like “this will pass” and “never give up.”
After living through the Great Flood of 2016 and all the destruction that storm caused, Harris’ students knew exactly what this small town in Texas was going through, and they wanted to let it know one thing — the hardships would eventually pass.
“Each student we have can identify with what happened in Mauriceville,” Harris said. “We lived through it, like everyone else here. I think that’s why so many were eager to help. In fact, they all seemed to be happy to help.”
But Springfield’s students — and the rest of the community at large — sent more than heartwarming letters to Mauriceville.
A lot more.
A group of volunteers, all associated with the town of Springfield, drove three trailers’ worth of goods more than 200 miles away to Mauriceville on Monday, Sept. 11, to help the town in its recovery following Hurricane Harvey.
One trailer was full of supplies that Springfield residents had collected for the “Flood Bucket Challenge,” which required them to fill construction buckets up with personal hygiene items and clean/rebuilding supplies. One hundred buckets also had a Bible inside.
Another trailer carried four pallets of bottled water inside, while a third had all the cooking equipment the volunteers would later use to make “some good ol’ Louisiana food” for flood victims over two days.
The group of volunteers left early Monday morning to deliver the goods, including Harris and his assistant principal John Chewning, District 8 Councilman Tab Lobell and Josh Randall, one of the project’s main organizers. Most of them will return Tuesday night, but by time, they’ll have already served around 2,500 meals and handed out more than $15,000 worth of supplies.
Just another way of “paying it forward.”
“They’re not Houston — they’re a small town just like us,” Randall said. “Sometimes those little towns get lost in the shuffle, and we know what that feels like. So hopefully we can to the same for Mauriceville, Texas that other places did for us.”
Randall said the idea to sponsor Mauriceville was inspired by the way other groups and towns rallied to Springfield’s aid following the historic flood in August of 2016, in particularly Pass Christian High School in Mississippi.
But project organizers didn’t want to help out any town. They wanted it be one like theirs — just “another town centered around two highway intersections.”
They found that in Mauriceville, a town of around 3,200 that covers about 8.5 square miles.
“We thought it might get forgotten in the big picture,” said Lobell, who came up with the idea for the Flood Bucket Challenge. “As a small town ourselves, we know how that feels.”
With the town selected, organizers busied themselves with spreading the word throughout Springfield, which responded in force to the Flood Bucket Challenge.
Residents of the small Livingston Parish town collected enough supplies to fill 407 construction buckets valued at least $30 apiece, though some approached $50 and $75. Everything was brought to Livingston Parish Fire Protection District No. 2.
More than 180 of those fully-stocked buckets came from Springfield High students, who also raised more than $600 in donations on free dress days. During the Bulldogs’ football game Friday, they showed their support even more when the cheerleaders led the student body in a lively chant of “Mauriceville.”
They also wrote those letters their principal got teary-eyed reading.
On Sunday, Sept. 10, it was time to load it all up for the trip.
Randall and his daughters, Samantha and Kaitlynn, were at the fire station early Sunday afternoon, organizing the supplies. By about 3 p.m., a group of 15 volunteers was busy putting the supplies in buckets, sealing those buckets shut, and loading those buckets onto a 16-foot trailer that would be driven to Mauriceville the next day.
When they loaded what they could, Randall pulled out his phone to make a video that would later be posted to the flood relief project’s Facebook page. In the video, volunteers could still be seen at work as Randall let walked in circles to capture the entire scene.
But just before he finished recording, he had a simple message for the victims in Mauriceville he and the other volunteers were about to visit.
“Mauriceville, Texas, we’re coming to see you. God bless.”