‘I just couldn’t take it any longer’: Hundreds of volunteers clean up La Grange

Volunteers started showing up by the hundreds in La Grange Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, to help clean up flood significant flood damage in hundreds of homes. (KXAN/Chris Davis)
Volunteers started showing up by the hundreds in La Grange Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, to help clean up flood significant flood damage in hundreds of homes. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

LA GRANGE, Texas (KXAN) — It takes an army to rebuild a flooded town — and that’s what La Grange is getting.

“Just watching the news,” Jeff Kloc of Cedar Park, said, “I just couldn’t take it any longer.” He was planning to go to the coast this weekend for a vacation. Instead, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged towns from the Gulf to Central Texas, he went to Fayette County.

Kelsey Kaltwasser helped a couple strip the drywall and carpet from the home they own and rent out. It’s about as close to the river as any house in the town, but it had never flooded before.

Kaltwasser donated to good causes after the flood and bought her ticket to the Fayette County Fair (which started Friday, and despite some flood-related changes will donate the profits to flood victims), but she wanted to do more to help her hometown.

“This was actually getting out there and helping,” Kaltwasser said.

When everything has to go, the kitchen sink, that help is appreciated. “They all showed up; they weren’t invited,” Richard Halpain, who owns the house Kaltwasser helped tear down to the studs Friday, said. “They just dropped in, started working.”

The city had a hand in that. Volunteers are asked to sign in at a tent, then are assigned a place they can go to help clean up and start the rebuilding process. “We had probably five, six, seven, eight people working,” Halpain said, “maybe nine at times.”

“I called up some of my buddies and took my son out of school,” Kloc said, “and we came out here to help out.”

Kim Newton, a city of La Grange employee, said 160 volunteers showed up Thursday and more than 300 came to the small town Friday to help from all over central Texas.

“You hear so much about Houston,” Kaltwasser said, “and not very much about these small towns that have lost everything.”

“Not just us,” Newton said to Kloc as he was preparing to pack up for the day. “Columbus and Smithville, Wharton has it really bad. so it’s really good to have all these volunteers.”

“Happy to be here,” Kloc replied.

Even the cooks, supplying all the volunteers with meals throughout the day, are volunteers — some of them from out of town, too. One group, from Burnet, cooked up a fajita buffet for the hungry workers at the end of the work day Friday.

Central Texans are showing, in one town’s time of need, what community looks like.

“People need help, that’s why I’m here,” Michael Reedy, of Giddings, said. “Simple as that.”

“We’re going to stay the night,” Kloc said, “and we’re going to come back out and hit it hard again tomorrow.”

The city of La Grange is expecting even more volunteers Saturday; if you want to help, employees are registering people across from Kruschel Memorial Park on West La Fayette Street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Schedules for future volunteer opportunities will be released later.

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