Imperial Valley overwhelms good Samaritans with donations for Texas


BRAWLEY — Category 4 Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport,Texas at full force August 26, settling over Houston, stalling out, and causing unprecedented flooding. The television images poured into America’s homes showing daring rescues, ruined lives, and millions of dollars of damages. Storm shelters filled with homeless families who arrived with only the wet clothes on their backs.

Like the rest of the United States, Imperial Valley residents were touched by the reports and images, and at least two moved to action. Valley resident Abbie Solarez organized a county-wide goods collection of water, blankets, food, and clothing. By Thursday, Solarez was in his truck with a borrowed trailer hitched, and picking up pallets of water, thousands of pounds of dog food, and more, to pack in, hoping to leave for Texas by nightfall.

Cody Preece of Brawley also jumped in to organize the donations and help drive the long distance soon after he heard his friend was going to Texas with much-needed goods. As they packed, Preece was sweating in the 117 degree temperature as he separated clothing from hard goods in his packed carport mid-afternoon Thursday. According to Preece, the pair had been at it since early morning.

Pointing to the piles of water and products, Preece said, “Most of this came from BCA (Brawley Christian Academy). Everybody is donating and giving from the heart.”

“We are giving the clothing to the Red Cross to take to Texas for us. We will load everything else in the trailer Joseph and Albert Callens donated for the cause. Our first trailer could not handle the weight,” Preece explained.

Preece was also looking for some extra hands to go to the Imperial Valley Humane Society to pick up 1,700 pounds of dog food the shelter was donating.

The trip was carefully choreographed. Once loaded, six men would drive to the Community Church in Katy, Texas, and arrive Saturday. The church was one of the shelters designated for flood victims. Church members had found a place for the Imperial Valley men to sleep to save them hotel costs. Preece said the Knights of Columbus were part of the organizational chain that would help unload and distribute goods coming into the shelter.

According to Preece, money was more difficult to obtain than hard goods. “People want to write checks, but checks are harder to cash in Texas where businesses are not operating. Who would we give the checks to? We don’t want to carry checks all the way to Texas. We have a gofundme account on Facebook and that money is going directly to the Red Cross operation in Texas.”

Joel Gonzalez also helped collect goods at his Desert RV shop in Brawley. He had water and boxes stacked high and overflowing into his workshop, and more behind the shop.

“What Abbie and Cody need is cash,” Gonzalez said. “They are driving their truck and trailer, loaded, all the way to Texas on their own dime. They need people giving them gift, gas credit cards or money to help pay for the fuel.”

Solarez was busy Thursday, not only coordinating and loading, but managing donations pouring in from Lake Havesu, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

“The Valley people just bonded with Texans. They are all giving from big hearts,” Solarez said. “I started organizing on Monday and Cody jumped in on Tuesday. Once we get there and unload, we are going to stay one more day to help with search and rescue. We plan to come back and rest two days before we turn around and head back up there.”

“People are still making donations,” Preece said, as another drop-off arrived at his house. “I hate to turn anyone down, but we only have the one trailer. I called U-Haul to see if they would donate a trailer, but I haven’t heard back from them. If someone has a trailer we could use, and a driver, that would be great.”

Gonzalez agreed with Preece. “Everybody is helping out. People have been walking into our shop all day with donations. They see it is devastating in Houston. The residents of the Imperial Valley really helped out.”

For those who want to follow their trip, Abbie Canon Solarez is posting their trials and tribulations on his Facebook page.