Buda-ites welcome Harvey evacuees with a hot meal

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Sweeny residents John and Brittney Nichols and their children arrived in Buda before a voluntary evacuation notice was issued Aug. 30.

“We didn’t want to be stuck there with the kids,” John said.

While the Nichols family is trying to enjoy their time in Central Texas, they’re worried about their home.

When they left Sweeny, only six inches of floodwater covered their house’s yard but they’re concerned the situation will worsen.

The nearby Brazos and San Bernard rivers continued to rise. It’s expected to cause major flooding.

“We’re not going to know [the extent of the damage]until we get back,” John said.

They’re not sure when they’ll be able to return to their home or to work.

“FEMA said they would pay for our room until Sept. 25,” Brittney said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to stay that long.”

Despite their concerns, the family enjoyed a BBQ dinner Thursday evening provided by Brooklyn’s Down South in the Comfort Suites parking lot.

“It’s really good, we really appreciate it,” Brittney said. “Everybody has been nice to us.”

Brooklyn Robertson, owner of Brooklyn’s Down South, worked with hotel manager Chris Griffin and the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce to host a dinner for up to 500 evacuees.

A couple of days ago, Griffin reached out to Robertson about organizing a dinner for evacuees staying in Buda hotels. 

“For our area, we got a lot of people that came from Houston,” Griffin said.

Approximately 40 rooms are occupied by 4 or 5 people each, Griffin said. People started arriving the Friday before Hurricane Harvey hit land, and have continued to arrive.

“It’s just constantly busy because people have gotten here and they don’t know if they can go back home,” Griffin said.

Robertson said hotel managers estimated 350 to 450 evacuees staying at 6 nearby hotels. 

“I started thinking, these people came here and didn’t really have much of nothing,” Griffin said.

People impacted by the hurricane probably didn’t budget for this catastrophe, Griffin said. When they arrived at Buda, they probably didn’t have a hot meal and have been eating fast food.

“Griffin reached out a couple of days ago and asked if we would consider possibly putting together a dinner because he had a lot of FEMA-supported evacuees that were staying here,” Robertson said.

Hoping to provide a small comfort, Griffin and Robertson coordinated the event in approximately 30 hours.

Robertson’s restaurant provided meat, rice and mashed potatoes. Lysa Gonzalez, Buda director of tourism, donated cookies and ice, while U.S. Foods donated chicken, Robertson said.

Volunteers created a tented dining area and some games for the children in the parking lot of Comfort Inn Suites.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School students, including Robertson’s children, painted banners and drew on paper plates which were strung together to decorate the tents.

Those impacted by the hurricane stopped by for a plate of BBQ and were greeted by friendly smiles and banners reading: “We are praying for you all” and “Texas unite.”

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